Sunday, December 13, 2009

BCD Tofu House - Irvine

Is there anything more satisfying during cold wet weather than Korean soft tofu soup? I think not. If you've read this blog for a while, you might have anticipated this post. With a few exceptions, I eat in accordance to weather conditions, and when it comes to soondubu, I'm of the opinion that it tastes best when you're freezing, and thus should be reserved until the thermometer reads south of 70 degrees and the roads are slicked with rain.

This week, with the local newscasts hyping its StormWatch coverage, BCD Tofu House was the place for us to have it. We ran in a few nights ago, straight from work, hands shielding our heads from the downpour. Our damp, wind-chilled faces were ready to be defrosted by slurps of hot soup. And out it came, served out of a thick, cast iron pot in which it was simmered in -- a red, chili-spiked broth sputtering and boiling like an angered volcano goddess out to avenge. We cracked a raw egg into it like a virgin sacrifice. It swallowed it, gulped it in. We did the same with the soup.

We scooped out spoonful after quivering spoonful of the bean curd, blowing on it before we passed the white, soybean nectar through our lips. Then we sipped the thin, scalding brew. Beads of perspiration began to form on my brow. It took five minutes for me to go from hypothermia to toasty warm to sweating.

The kimchi helped me along. Other panchan side dishes -- like the cold, marinated baby bok choy -- refreshed.

Shortly thereafter, a particularly unctuous but chewy kalbi arrived in a tall stack (it was a part of a combo we ordered to share) itself heated on a bed of onions sizzling on blazing cast iron plate. A yellow croaker, a whole tiny fish battered and deep fried, was nice too -- another protein to mash into the steamed rice.

There was also cucumber covered in gochuchang, bean sprouts marinated in sesame oil -- all prefunctory dishes we've come to expect from places like this, but nothing that we haven't seen done better or with more variety elsewhere. Irvine, after all, is a town with no shortage of Korean soft tofu restaurants. There are at least six. BCD is part of an L.A. chain, but this newest outlet at Irvine's Diamond Jamboree distinguishes itself by being one of a few things that is open 24-7 in the city.

Service, as a consequence, is less than obsequious. What's done is what's required: they take your order, give you your food, and later, the check. Water is only refilled when you ask (they give you a jug). And I'm not sure they are inclined to give you more panchan if you request it. But the soup was there: all that we needed, exactly when we needed it. And that's all that mattered.

BCD Tofu House
2700 Alton Pkwy, Ste 135
Irvine, CA 92606

House of Kabob - Irvine


At 5:49 AM, Blogger Bill said...

So poetically good for the stomach. :-D

There are better places off of Garden Grove then again this is right around the corner. If I recall there is a tofu soup joint off Jeffery and the 5 on the Northside of Taiko IMO was pretty good. Nothing beats this on a cold rainy day. My on the list to visit when I visit Ca.

At 8:28 AM, Blogger joanh said...

love love soondubu when it's cold and rainy out. we finally have a good one here, but the service can be so slowwww

At 8:51 AM, Blogger Diamond Dog said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 8:51 AM, Blogger Diamond Dog said...

Does anyone else find these dishes rather expensive for what it is? Not just at BCD, but all the places. I love the stuff, but I believe the tofu/kalbi combo Elmo got was around 13 bucks? Doesnt seem to compare to the prices from the Vietnamese faction.

At 9:54 AM, Anonymous JB said...

Am gonna agree with Diamond Dog...
the Web site of Hashigo Korean Kitchen prices the tofu stew at $8.50 [$5.99 during happy hour, so if you're a beer drinker, you're set]. I recall it being $7.00 not long ago. Admittedly, I do covet take-out Octopus Stew at times, but the $8.50 is covering the lack of income during the summer months, I guess.

Hey Elmo, "obsequious" sent me to my dictionary
Are you trying to drive Google search traffic from literary types?

At 9:55 AM, Blogger Bill said...

DD it is expensive but I have yet been able to replicate it at home even though I have all the ingredients. It must be the msg I leave out...
Heck its all about the panchans.

At 10:26 AM, Blogger Juliet said...

Soondubu is one of my favorite winter comfort foods. I just love it! And the yellow croaker? Love that, too. Imagine how comforting that food is to my cold Midwestern bones.

At 1:05 PM, Blogger polar said...

I LOVE soondooboo but..


I hate HATE BCD. It leaves a unique metallic aftertate that is rather VERY unpleasant. I can even pick if out if you put 3 different restaurants' versions in front of me. Their sides are lackluster, service has always been poor, and prices are on the expensive side. Just my opinion.

At 1:09 PM, Blogger Diamond Dog said...

so where is the best place in OC if its not BCD? and if you could explain WHY, that would be great too.

At 4:35 PM, Blogger EatTravelEat said...

You finally posted about this place :).

Always like how they highly stack their kalbi. Full orders are so high they seem scary! They were friendly to my table when we asked for panchan back in September. Sometimes some panchan came automatically which was nice.

How were the spicy clams to you?

At 5:05 PM, Anonymous eaterdeltustin said...

I would be surprised if they refused to give you more panchan. That's standard.

At 5:41 PM, Blogger polar said...

Diamond Dog,

Here are a few places in OC, and also in Artesia:
Kaju Tofu Restaurant
8895 Garden Grove Blvd
Garden Grove, CA 92844

Myungdong Tofu House
5446 Beach Blvd
Buena Park, CA 90621

Cho Dang Tofu House (this one's my fav)
12245 E Artesia Blvd
Cerritos, CA 90703

At 1:54 PM, Blogger sara said...

BCD is sooo good. they have it here in seattle and its open 24-7!

At 1:02 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


Ah, yes, you speak of Irvine Tofu House, one of my favorites and regular haunts. Of course, it's now called Goong.


For some reason, and I don't know if it's a Cali thing, but all the soft tofu joints around here are usually faster than fast food. It's like they have the tofu soup perennially cooking and ready to send out!


Actually, BCD charged $15.99 for the meal you see! But then I don't find it expensive since I usually share these combos with my lovely dining companion. It comes out to roughly about $10 per person, and I'm always stuffed. But nothing compares to the cost effectiveness of VNese food...well, except Mexican.


HEH! Believe me, I had to look up "obsequious" too!


It definitely *IS* about the whole spread! And the panchan is the deciding factor for me most of the time. With that said, Kaya in Irvine is my local fave! Their panchan is immaculate and diverse!


I was hoping you'd chime in. And yes, I figured that you guys need this stuff above everyone else. I think I saw a No Reservations where Bourdain's Korean-American producer took him to a soondubu place in New Jersey in a snowstorm...NOW THAT'S WHAT YOU EAT IN A SNOWSTORM!


HEHE! I knew that either you or eaterdeltustin would comment one way or the other about BCD. They do seem to be the Denny's of the soondubu genre of restaurants! I figure the servers are that way because service NEVER ENDS! Like what Newman from Seinfeld said about the post office: "THE MAIL NEVER STOPS!"


Trust polar on this one. He knows Korean food and has steered me to the best in OC Korean food. But just in case anyone's interested, for Irvine, I've always admired the food, the service, and especially the variety and quality of the panchan at Kaya.


Spicy clams? Was that the red panchan I couldn't identify? I guessed they were some mollusk, but they were chewy and intense...but I couldn't finish it: too full!


That's a relief. Of course, I felt bad asking for more panchan since I ordered one combo to share between two people. But it's nice to know that they will oblige me even then.


That reminds me: Is the Cho Dang on Irvine Blvd. any good?


Ah Seattle. 24-7 for an area that seems to rain 365 is ideal!

At 8:41 PM, Blogger Melissa said...

"But just in case anyone's interested, for Irvine, I've always admired the food, the service, and especially the variety and quality of the panchan at Kaya."

After reading this, and after staring longingly at your bowl of soondubu, I decided I finally needed to give this dish a shot. You know me and know that a) I love Asian soups and b) I love spice. So off to Kaya I went. I met Anita there for lunch yesterday afternoon.

I. LOOOOOVED. IIIIT. Oh man. Thank you for getting my ass in gear to try this wonderful concoction. I got the beef and seafood mix and finished every last drop. The panchan was also outstanding and the service was so friendly.

Seriously. THANK YOU! Once again, you have helped me discover new food love, and I truly appreciate it!

At 9:08 AM, Blogger Bill said...

Happy Holiday!!!! Have a safe one.

At 9:17 AM, Blogger Exile Kiss said...

Hi elmomonster,

Thanks for the review. I'm glad you had a better experience than my friends and I did - When we went, BCD Irvine was probably the most bland Soft Tofu Clay Pot we've had in a long time. :( Maybe we were unlucky (they might've still been training the kitchen staff?), but we haven't been back since. What are your favs in Garden Grove? :)

At 8:35 AM, Blogger polar said...


I have yet to visit the Cho Dang in Irvine. It has the same name as the one in Artesia. And I THINK they are owned by the same people (same lil-kid logo). I'll make it a point to get out there and see if its any good. (though yelp reviews aren't too good so far..)

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


You know what? After reading your post, it reminded me that it's been too long since I've been to Kaya, so I went back! And they're even better than I remembered. They even served us complimentary pajeon (Korean pancakes) hot and crispy off the griddle before the meal started. And the panchan was as varied and done with care as always! And the soup was rich, full-flavored, bold -- even more satisfying than I recall. So thanks for taking the time to try it and for reminding me to do the same!


You too!

Exile Kiss,

Believe or not, I've not been to any soondubu in GG (at least not lately). I'll have to defer to the Korean food expert in this discussion, who is polar. And if he swears by Kaju in GG, that's where I'll go next!


I've actually been to Cho Dang in Cerritos. I remember it fondly because there was free soft serve at the end, which was a nice touch. Or at least I THOUGHT it was Cho Dang?!

Actually, I'd be more curious on what you think of Kaya in Irvine. It is currently my favorite, a fact reconfirmed after a visit I made the other day!

At 7:46 PM, Blogger Melissa said...

So glad you did! Just saw your Dueling DIshes post on it. I am MISSING OC RIGHT NOW. After only 3days, I am dying for ramen, pho, or soondubu. This cold weather (it's snowing here!) demands it.

At 1:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I say, when convenient, go somewhere else.. the food at BCD is simply mediocre. In terms of service, they're slightly below average Korean owned restaurants IMO.


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