Kaju Soft Tofu - Irvine
It occurred to me during the middle of my Korean soft tofu dinner what a perfect meal this was. Not just this particular one ($16.99)--which was good, soul-soothing, and body-warming in the cold drizzle of the night--but all soondubu combos like it.
No matter where I've had it, the hot rice, the kalbi beef short ribs, the fried fish, the vegetable side dishes, and the soup are like the A-Team. Each individual component has its quirky strengths, contributing its own unique talents to the mission objective.
As played out as the yin-yang analogy may be, everything balances out something else. A bite of something crunchy can be followed by something soft. A slurp of something scalding is countered by that which is briskly chilled. The chew of meat is answered by tofu or veg. Spicy meets sweet. The sweet then cleansed by tart.
Your mouth becomes a see-saw and everyone is taking turns.
As is often the case, Kaju had a handful of people waiting at its doors to get in on the experience, and desperately trying to get out from the cold. If I'm not mistaken, most of the customers are Chinese, as are the servers.
That it is one of Irvine's most consistently managed, consistently good soondubu joints is saying something, especially in a town with no shortage of soondubu joints. The panchan isn't as varied or interesting as Kaya, but it does everything it needs to do.
And doesn't it all sound good?
In the cold, wet, and nippy nights that are to come, there's nothing better.
Kaju Tofu Restaurant
5408 Walnut Ave
Irvine, CA 92604-2500