My friend Caryl has always maintained that So Kong Dong was the best tofu restaurant in Koreatown. I have always plumped for Beverly Soon Tofu Restaurant across the street. So Kong Dong seems almost Soviet in its appearance, a low-ceilinged dining room bathed in a singularly unappealing fluorescent glare. Beverly looks as if its proprietor went overboard on the burl-log furniture for sale by the side of the road in Topanga. So Kong Dong serves its rice in superheated stone pots that give it a subtly smoky flavor. Beverly?s rice is served in the same stainless-steel bowls you find everywhere in Koreatown. So Kong Dong includes briny pickled clams among its panchan. Beverly?s panchan is pretty much by the book. So Kong Dong?s signature tofu casserole, soontofu, is a marvelous thing, bubbling and sputtering in its red-hot bowl, robustly flavored with shrimp and clams and oysters and beef, walloped with chile and garlic. Beverly?s soontofu is a little tamer, the broth more briny than complex, like an austere French bouillon as compared to a concentrated California-style stock fortified with tomato paste and fistfuls of herbs. So Kong Dong would seem to win on points. Yet the tofu itself, freshly made every day at both restaurants, is smooth and supple at Beverly, barely gelled blocks of pure, subtle flavor that melt into an elusive milkiness in your mouth, where at So Kong Dong the tofu tends to be kind of . . . curdy. You?ll still find me at Beverly. But I wouldn?t blame you if you ended up across the street with Caryl instead.
Photos by Raul Vegaand Anthony Allen Twenty-odd years ago, I lived in a neighborhood that was then called Wilshire Center, in a large apartment, probably grand in its day, with Palladian windows, an oddly placed stairwell, and carpet that hadn’t... More »
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