Monday, October 18, 2010

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
(949) 653-2849

Izakaya Meijiya - Costa Mesa
Best of OC 2010
Valkyrie of Transcontinental Sausage - Ehrline Karnaga


At 5:55 PM, Blogger mark said...

Speaking on banchan, are you aware there's a kimchi shortage in Korea?!

At 6:39 PM, Blogger digkv said...

yay i've been wondering if there was a better place than bcd. Sure bcd is open 24 hours but the soup is so watery :(Do you think that food is enough to share between 2 people? I always feel cheap but I don't think it's worth it for 2 people to buy 2 orders at tofu houses, it's always so much food and the only variable item is the protein which is usually a second thought to the delicious soup and banchan.

At 5:52 AM, Blogger Bill said...

I miss me some soobdubu. I have yet to duplicate the taste I bet its the MSG I need ;-)

At 8:09 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


I had no idea! But I am aware that most of Korea's kimchi is actually made in China. You are right though. Apparently it's a "kimchi crisis" over there!


Ah yes! I *always* order one combo item and share it between two people. This one included! The price is the same and they don't mind you doing it. It is customary to buy an extra serving of rice for $1, though.

I like Kaju heads above BCD. Kaya continues to be my all time favorite.


I bet! MSG, when used for noble things like this, is not evil!

At 9:19 AM, Blogger Melissa said...

This sounds fantastic today, rainy and chilly as it is. Alas (not really), I have leftover homemade Thai.

But soon. It's been too long since I had a nice Korean spread. You're right about the way it all contrasts and delights - very well written.

At 2:35 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...


Thanks! And I know you've tried Kaya and loved it! It's taking every fiber of my being not to eat this every day this week, trying a different soondubu joints every day (there's more than enough to last a week in Irvine). Good thing it's semi-expensive, or else I totally would!

At 6:20 PM, Blogger Juliet said...

Ooooohhhhh...I am getting over a wicked bad cold, and having been craving soondubu. So hungry...

At 8:49 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


As far as I'm concerned: This is the new chicken soup!

At 12:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

but kaya isn't a tofu house. they have other entrees as well. out of the places where tofu is the star, i'd have to choose kaju above all others in irvine.

At 12:16 PM, Blogger Diamond Dog said...

I like the tofu dishes at these places, but I just find it over priced for what it is. Its usually 30-40 bucks for 2 people (who really eats alone these days) and I don't feel splitting one is enough for 2 people.

At 6:04 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...


You're right. Kaya isn't a tofu house; but it does it so well! Perhaps it is also because of Kaya's breadth that its banchan is one of the best I've had.


I think it comes down to the size of one's appetite. The typical tofu combo seems to suit us fine; but I can see how it can be not enough for, say, my co-worker, who can eat two Alerto's burritos and still be hungry.

At 11:43 AM, Blogger Manda Murphy said...

My first time reading your blog. Love it! Thank you for sharing. I definitely will check your blog again for new places to dine :)

At 3:44 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...


Thanks for the comment and welcome to my humble home! I wish you good eating!


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