It has been quite sometime since I posted. (I got a bit beat up for posting a positive review of Vert last year). Still, I read Chowhound almost every day. It is a bit like KCRW, after a while you feel so guilty for enjoying it so thoroughly that you just have to contribute!
So here is my annual pledge!
Last night I finally had my first Soontofu experience. I have been meaning to give it a go but knew I need the proper guide to help me choose just the right spot. Last night all things converged and I ended up at a place called Sokongdong Soontofu (or was it Sohongdong??). It's on Olympic near Vermont.
We started with a round of what I took to be water (brownish water). I do not really know what it was... it looked like very, very watery coca cola. It had a mild barely detectable nutty taste. I very much liked it, but never got around to asking what it was.
There is not a lot of choice. After all you are here for the soontofu, which is a soup of (I am guessing here) red gochu jang and chili laden broth served BOILING hot at your table. You can choose to have this soup flavored with a variety of things. 3 of us had the mixed seafood and one had mushroom. I was a seafood.
They also bring smallish eggs to the table which are cracked raw into the soup and the whole thing sort of erupts and thickens. There is plenty of creamy tofu in the soup which was my favorite part of the dish.
You are given a choice of spiciness. No spice, regular spice, or very spiced. My dining companions all chose regular, I went for very spicy. Now, granted I like spicy food, so maybe I am a bit immune, but I would not have called that very spicy. It was well spiced and very tasty but certainly not hot.
I was a bit disappointed with the seafood. Perhaps it was only meant to flavor the soontofu. I got 3 small, whole shrimps that were cooked to death and a bit mealy. I ate only one. There were several small clams with shells that were equally overcooked. I could tell by looking so I did not eat them.
The mushrooms looked far more appetizing. Still I enjoyed the dish overall for it's flavor and the quality of the velvety tofu.
Panchan which is a staple at all Korean restaurant was quite plentiful. The dishes I remember included a terrific pickled spicy cucumber, kimchee, fish cake and a raw marinated crab (the crab was by far my favorite part of the meal).
This crab was what it sounds like-- a whole crab broken into smallish irregular pieces and marinated in something sour and vinegary. The raw "meat" was so soft and sweet! The idea was to put the whole mess in your mouth and suck that shell dry. Our waitress filled our crab bowl 3 times. This dish was part of the condiment (panchan) selection that comes FREE with your meal. I noticed there was a marinated raw crab plate as well as a marinated raw crab soontofu on the menu. But why pay extra for what they bring free.
To round out the table we chose an order of Beef Bulgagi which was a plate of spicy, sweet, sour beef slices. Very nice but nothing out of the ordinary. I would have chosen the Pork Bulgagi, but was out voted.
We also had a Tofu Salad. At first glace it seemed a bit disappointing. It appeared to be a regular mix of baby greens like you'd buy by the bag at Ralphs surrounded by little triangles of fried tofu. Well it turned out to be exactly what it looked like, except the tofu was so rich and velvety and very deeply flavored. I honestly have never tasted tofu that actually had such flavor. Most of my tofu experiences revolve around Chinese tofu dishes where the tofu acted as a vessel for the flavors surrounding it, so texture was the most important consideration. This tofu tasted very complex on it's own.
The waitress brought out more nutty flavored water at the end of the meal and poured it into a stoneware rice bowl, which was filled with little bits of burnt rice. This rice tea was then poured back into little bowls to enjoy at the end of the meal. It was a nice mellow end to the complex and (somewhat) spicy soontofu.
Though it might be unrelated, I spent a rather sleepless night with a racing heart...so I suspect there were high levels of MSG in the food. But it was worth it and I'll be back.
Total bill for 4 was $54.00 before tip.