My Tofu House
4627 Geary Blvd.
Cross: 10th Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94118
02, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO
this week was freaking cold. My icebox, excuse me, my Edwardian
apartment was chilling me to the marrow. I can’t believe I actually
had to go to bed with socks on. Wooly ones. I could do double duty
and turn this place into a meat locker, seriously. “Oh, hey, mister
cable man. Yeah, just move that side of beef aside and you’ll find
the cable box. See, right there. Yeah, sorry about the smell.”
in times like these when a space heater, mittens, earmuffs, and
a scarf (you’re indoors, mind you) just don’t cut it, and you have
to turn to some serious spice to warm yourself up (hey, you can’t drink hot toddies all day, but you certainly can try). Hello Korean
food. There is always the option to hit one of the Korean barbeque
places and leave smelling like a campfire girl, but ~MY
TOFU HOUSE~ is entirely another animal.
The place itself is actually quite chilly—bright lights, uncomfortable
seats, and kind of drafty. There’s also a back room that is literally
ambiance scale, I’ve seen waiting rooms at SF General with more
personality. And joy, whaddya know, a long line of people too!
(I know, I am really selling you on this space, huh!) But the tables
turn quickly so the line moves along; watch everyone’s dining techniques
while you’re waiting, because dinner will
require some interaction. (Stand by for more.) The place is also
packed with Koreans, from families to young hipsters to middle-aged
guys having dinner together. That’s about all the stamp of legitimacy
The primary dish to order here is the soon dubu, the soft tofu
what is up with that weirdo pricing?). The name “My Tofu House” is deceiving because it makes you think you’ll be seeing a bunch of vegetarian
dishes, but in actuality, no sir. Four of the five soups have meat
in them, like beef or pork and mushrooms; we tried the seafood
version, with clams, shrimp, and oysters.
comes out in this little stone bowl, boiling furiously like a
(hold the eye of newt, thanks). One can’t help but wonder how many
accidental soup-in-the-lap incidents have occurred over the years.
Let’s just say your nether
regions would end up approximating a botched gender reassignment
soup is wicked hot. Anyway. You end up getting a separate bowl
with an egg in it—as soon as your soup arrives, crack the egg into
your bubbling little bowl and mix it in. The soup comes in not
spicy, mild, medium, or spicy—medium hit
the perfect note for me.
your soup cools its jets, have fun sampling the pan chan, the
small dishes of appetizing bites like cucumber, a small fried
fish, bean sprouts, pickled daikon, kimchee, and tasty little
sweet-salty fish—they were total fish candy.
Munch munch. Don’t be afraid—they were delish. If you end up demolishing
some of the dishes, a server will ask you if you’d like more… totally
gracious touch. Everyone working here was quite nice, in fact.
They seemed happy to answer questions for the novices, so have no fear.
complimentary item that comes out with your order is a stone bowl
with rice, plus some peas in there too—your server will
scoop it into a smaller bowl for you, and the rice that remains
in the stone bowl gets quite crispy. Then a server will come back
and pour water into the stone bowl and put the lid on. Within moments
the mini hot tub starts churning (pass the Courvoisier), and once
it’s done, you have a kind of smoky rice soup. Not for everyone,
but definitely a funky little ritual.
stone bowl makes another appearance with the bibimbop/bibimbap
($12.22, again, weirdo pricing scheme). The texture and flavors
of this dish just rule: rice, nori, pickled vegetables, spinach,
bean sprouts, beef (or you can order it with seafood, or mushrooms,
or just tofu) and again, a raw egg that you mix in with the rice-a-rama.
Fire-eaters can add hot sauce to the mix too. The stoneware bowl
is so hot it crisps everything up and keeps it nice and toasty.
Scoop some out and place it on top of your bowl of white rice
also seen people scoop tofu out of their soup and place it on top
of their rice).
yeah, the soup. It’s probably cooled down by
now. Take a sip. Mmmm, hot and good and slightly fishy. (Don’t
touch that bowl, however. Just don’t.) The tofu
is tender and silky, and hey, there are some little morsels of
the egg you cracked in, tasty. We found the prawns end up getting
totally overcooked by the time the soup cools, so take them out
and put them on your rice to save them from a death-by-boiling
fate if you plan on eating them.
bowls of soup and one order of the bibimbap was more than plenty
for two people—we got out
of there with tip for $40, and totally stuffed. Other popular dishes
are the kalbi (short ribs, $15.21) or the bulgogi (sliced rib eye,
come out on sizzling platters and smell heavenly. There’s not much else on the menu. There really doesn’t need to be. Oh,
except beer. I really wanted a beer. No beer. You’ll have to content
yourself with tea or a soda. And for dessert, you get a slice of
melon gum. Pay up, pop the complimentary gum into your mouth, and
you’re officially armed and toasty enough to head back out into
the foggy SF night. Take no prisoners.