So Kong Dong…is not a first date location. It is a great splurge-for-dinner-with-friends sit-down meal kind of location, but I wouldn’t even call it a splurge, because if three people come relatively starving and order two combo meals, they will all leave very full and satisfied, for about $13 each.
Tofu House is a very small restaurant that’s situated in the very corner of an obscure shopping center in the center of what I consider Atlanta’s Chinatown, Buford Highway. It is, quite metaphorically, a diamond in the rough.
There will be lots of Asians in groups of friends and families sitting at the table, so you know this place is pretty authentic, for tofu soup. And when the words tofu soup appear on your screen, I know your first instinct is to close the tab and shake your head slowly because you just wasted 30 seconds of your life reading this, but keep reading.
I used to refer to this place as “hot pot”, but research has revealed that this place is indeed not hot pot, which denotes putting raw meat and vegetables into a boiling pot and cooking it like that, but rather sundubu jjigae, a type of Korean stew that features vegetables and meat already cooked in a porcelain bowl, with an egg cracked in at the last minute.
I’ve been here many times, most recently with my friends Eileen and Mallika. I always suggest this place to people when I am ravenous, as though my stomach has anticipated Tofu House and refrained from consuming all day.
Though not every dish is generous about portions, there are many, many dishes, so it all adds up.
Every combo (avg. $16) comes with a smattering of tiny tapas-like dishes, called banchan. There’s a delicious, cold vermicelli noodle salad that is seasoned with sesame oil, grated carrot, and spring onion. (Love it.)
There’s a small offering of fermented tofu, which is spongy and meaty, unlike the tofu that you’ll find in your soup. (Eh.)
You were waiting for kimchi-like dishes to be mentioned, so here they are. Spicy, pickled everything. Not just cabbage, but also cucumber and the like.
Then there are the KBBQ ribs. Probably my favorite part of every meal. Not the same thing as bul gogi, these ribs come a bit thicker and with bone in for maximum flavor.
Besides these tapas, each person gets a small fried fish, which is a bit mediocre since I can’t guess what’s inside the batter and all the bones have been left in. The fact that it’s difficult to eat is one of the turn offs of the fish.
This place does not offer any memorable desserts or drinks, and you won’t be searching for any; there will simply be no more room in your stomach by the time you finish the banchan and the jjigae.
I urge you to dive into the banchan first; there’s probably a reason that it arrives (5-7 minutes) before your Korean stew will (10-12 minutes).The jjigae will be boiling hot for a few more moments, and if you wait until last to tackle it, it will save you from breaking out into a sweat.
The Korean stew comes with different levels of spiciness to award the customer some control. You can choose between different types of meat in each tofu stew or just opt for soft, silky tofu, which is very nutritional; this bean curd is high in protein, calcium, and iron. In Asian culture, it’s been said to promote soft, healthy skin.
So Kong Dong’s website has a tab dedicated solely to the humble tofu; it makes for an interesting read.
Also on their menu is a page for jeon, a Korean-style savory pancake or crêpe ($13). Think: eggy, thick, pan-fried batter with vegetables and/or chopped meats scattered throughout. A bit too oily for me, but to each his own, right?
Bibimbap! So Kong Dong has dolsot bibimbap, which is a bibimbap (meaning mixed rice) dish served in a ridiculously hot stone bowl ($10). Anything that touches the sesame-oiled sides will instantly fry, so the bottom layer of the rice gets golden and crispy. The inside is filled with vegetables, creating a colorful effect. There’s a raw egg yolk in the middle. Drizzle with sriracha, mix it up a bit, and devour!
5280 Buford Hwy, Atlanta, GA 30340