Tucked in an unknown corner with nothing but a barely readable sign even from just a short distance, Beverly Soon Tofu Restaurant serves an almost perfect soondubu (or sundubu). Not steaming but boiling. Not mild but hot. Not bland but explosive. Not to say they weren't, but the banchan and combination plates needed no additional spices at all to persuade anyone to step into this place. In fact, the place can survive on tofu soup alone on their menu. Big bold statement for big, bold flavors in a hot pot.
They boast not of high-end decor, chinaware, and even a big menu. This place is all about simplicity and flavor. It's an imperfect log setting just like in a cabin. They don't have leather menu covers, only a paper insert: one side in English, one side in Korean. Not glasses, but tin cups for their free barley tea. And one passes by the storage room/part kitchen to wash your hands. But leave your raised pinkies at the door, because this is comfort food at its most comforting.
The banchan combines the obvious and uncommon. With a cold tofu in a sweet and sour brine topped with seaweed, this side dish is rare even in Koreatown. The rest are the usual suspects: bean sprouts, kimchi, spicy cold apples, hot sesame potatoes, and the list has more. The combination are also endless when you want more than just your soup. Bulgogi (barbecued beef), galbi (Korean short ribs), squid (spicy marinated while squid), spicy chicken, bibimbap (seasoned meat and vegetables over rice), and rice medley (stone pot cooked rice medley of seafood, sweet rice, beans, and vegetables). But with new additions to the menu, it's hard to resist to try the new while having the old.
The tofu steak: its four slabs of tofu but nothing that tasted this good. Served on a sizzling plate, these four pan-fried slices acted like sponges, absorbing all the delicious liquid underneath. And underneath was stewed kimchi and soy sauce vinaigrette. First bite tastes the crispy outside formed from slightly searing the tofu, and inside is a silky delicious consistency that's perfect for sopping all the spicy and sour liquid. It was slightly off that the vegetables were no longer as crisp as regular kimchi, but it was an error easily forgivable.
Seafood combination tofu soup. The broth was perfect at "medium spicy". Boiling at first, burning your tongue and piping hot in your throat. But all care out the window, you get addicted to each and every spoonful. The difference between this pot and many others is the intense, authentic, strong broth flavor. This is not for the timid eater. The seafood inside will always be seafood, but it all becomes better when incorporated in that wonderful broth. By the time you think you're done, you're not, not until you finish all the silky tofu curds, empty those shellfish, and slurp every last broth.
Soondubu is an acquired taste, at least it seems so. It may not be as popular as chicken noodle soup or chowder, but soup is soup. And it is as comforting as it gets. And here at Beverly Soon Tofu, an almost perfect pot is as close as it gets any day.
(And it does add the LA Magazine dubbed this place Best of Cheap Eats of 2009, which they weren't making up stories at all.)
Bevery Soon Tofu is at 2717 W Olympic #108 Los Angeles, CA. T: (213)380-1113. They serve beer, wine, and soju. And they accept all major credit cards.