I don’t have any statistics, but judging by the number of new Korean Tofu restaurants opening up in parts of Los Angels County with smaller Korean-descent populations, I’d say Korean Tofu restaurants are starting to get popular. Tofu Village, which has several locations throughout Los Angeles County, only helps the trend. The following is a review of the Little Tokyo location.
Although I had some experience with American style Korean BBQ restaurants, I had never experienced a Korean Tofu restaurant. In fact, no one in the party I went with the first time had any experience with a Korean Tofu restaurant. We didn’t know what we were in for …it was a surprise, but a very pleasant one. The service is very friendly and courteous, but can be very casual – you may have to speak up if you are in a hurry.
Whether you and your party plan to order a table meal, or individual dishes, Tofu Village has an entrée right for you. Some of the tables/booths have a grill for the traditional communal meal, which the table receives the order as thinly sliced raw meats for grilling. My friends and I opted for the individual dishes. They do offer a variety of dishes, including a teriyaki chicken bowl, and a Kimchee Cold Noodle Soup, but if it’s your first time (as it was ours), logic dictates that you order the soontofu (Tofu Soup). You can order this as an entrée, or order a combo with an individual BBQ plate (already grilled for you). As it turned out, we made the right decision. The meal does justice to the restaurant’s name.
You get about a dozen different options for your soontofu from Beef, Seafood, Blue Crab, etc. The Dumpling soontofu is a popular choice among my friends. You choose the level of spiciness: mild, medium, or hot. You also get to choose the type of steamed rice with your dish: white, green, or black. The green rice is actually white rice with green tea powder to give its color, but the black rice has a bit of a different flavor.
When you order the soontofu, the servers will provide twelve small side dishes (banchan) , which change with each visit. It’s a lot of fun to sample these bite sized plates, which include: boiled seaweed, sweet glass noodles, potato salad, bean sprouts, etc. You will also be served a small steamed scrambled egg appetizer in a wood container. When the restaurant first opened, an order of soontofu would also prompt the server to bring you a raw egg – now, you have to ask. I don’t think enough patrons knew what to do with the egg, and many were just left sitting at the table unused. We learned by watching the customers sitting at the table next to ours. The soontofu will arrive piping hot, thus, upon arrival, break the egg and pour it on top of the soup.
The soontofu is filling on its own, but you can combo it with an individual BBQ plate (beef, pork, or ribs). The price of the combo is $11.99 (lunch), or $14.99 (dinner). One popular option is to have one person in the party order the combo and share the BBQ plate. The service is friendly, the food is good, the amount of food, adequate. You can’t ask for more, and if you live or work close-by, you may, like me, end up going back regularly.