Best Korean Restaurant Orange County 2013 - Soy Tofu
With a spartan amount of décor and plain copy-machine paper as placemats, Soy Tofu might at first appear to be the kind of place that cuts corners. But the more you settle in, the more you realize it focuses its efforts where it counts: on the food and the service. The kalbijim is extraordinary, an immense stew of intensely flavored, slow-cooked boulders of beef short ribs, jujubes, carrots, hazelnuts and chewy cylinders of rice cake simmered in a slowly thickening broth redolent of black pepper. The free panchan side dishes are eclectic and creative. Some nights, you see pajeon, the hot, chewy, almost-elastic Korean pancakes with veins of scallions running through them. Other nights, it's some sort of cooling potato salad. And then there's the woman who single-handedly serves the food. She's a whirlwind of warmth and kindness. She'll pinch the cheeks of adorable children, refill panchan plates without asking, and mix the dol sot bibimbap tableside, mashing the rice, meat and veggies against the hot stone pot until it sizzles to a crisp. And when she comes out with the soondubu, she'll do it gingerly while cooing, "Be careful! This is very hot!" Heed her warning, and then tuck in. Her Korean soft tofu soup is scalding, but it's also soul-affirming, just as the woman and her restaurant are.