This cold weather has had everyone looking for the hottest food they can find, so it's good timing for Seoul Tofu House, which just opened in the Laylow Waikiki. Their specialty is soondubu, or Korean soft tofu stew, which is served not just hot, but bubbling.
Seoul Tofu House offers 11 different kinds of soondubu in meal sets, or bansang, all at the same price: $13.99. Each roiling stone bowl of stew includes soft tofu, of course, and an array of vegetables, with your choice of meat or seafood. They have three levels of spice — regular, hot, and danger — and I think most people will be fine with regular. Note that regular doesn't mean "not spicy," it just means a normal level of spice! Mari Taketa ordered hers hot, and that was overwhelming for us.
The meal set is a pretty good deal for $13.99. In addition to your bowl of soondubu, you get a bowl of rice, a pack of Korean nori, and four side dishes. You also get a raw egg, which you crack into the stew upon serving, and the heat cooks it as you mix it in.
Most people order the "assorted" soondubu, which has clams, shrimp, squid, and beef — so you get a little bit of everything. My personal favorite, however, is the cod roe soondubu. In a side-by-side taste test, my dining companions and I found the cod roe broth to be richer and more complex than the assorted soondubu broth. Somoene said the curry soondubu, which isn't traditional, was their favorite, so I will probably try that next time.
You can also order noodles and cheese on the side at $2 each. This is a common order with Japanese customers, who prefer noodles in soup over rice. I thought the noodles were a little too much, so if you're a big eater, that might help fill you up more. I did like the cheese, as it lends nice balance to the spiciness.
Seoul Tofu House has been rolling out availability of different sides during this soft opening period, so we got to try the meat jun and spicy chicken with cheese (which is available as a bansang or a la carte). The meat jun was very tender, and the dipping sauce is mild — not the strong, salty dipping sauce we usually get. The chicken and cheese is not too spicy, or it may seem less so because of the cheese. I'd recommend this for sharing, as it seemed like a lot for one person in a bansang.
You know this restaurant is legit, since it is a branch of Yudulkini (meaning 8 meals) Corporation, which has 25 brands of restaurants in Korea including Season’s Table 계절밥상, Noodle Kitchen 면주방, Unjoojip 언주집, and many more. The recipes at Seoul Tofu House are from their corporate kitchen in Korea.
Everything should be available for their opening tomorrow, and to add to the excitement, they're giving coupons for free soondubu to the first 50 people (to be used on their next visit). Seoul Tofu House is open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. If you don't already have parking in Waikiki, you do have to park on the street or find flat-rate lots.
Seoul Tofu House
2299 Kuhio Ave.