Once you eat homemade tofu, you can't go back. It is as different from the bland supermarket products as boxed mac and cheese is from its wonderful creamy baked cousin. Knowing this, I tried to make it at home...and a splattered kitchen and multiple dirty dishes later, my tofu was inedible! With optimism, then, I headed to Cho Dang Gol in the Koreatown section of New York City, known for their homemade tofu. Many courses later, I was a fan.
We began with complimentary and traditional Korean appetizers, known as ban chan. What arrived was wonderful panfried tofu, sweet, subtle with a side of soy sauce. Next, some kimchi, tofu with spinach, and fermented fresh greens.
We overordered clearly when our first "official" appetizer arrived: Tofu Trio: handmade tofu slices, served with steamed pork belly and fresh Kimchi. The pork pate was rough and meaty. I could pass in the future. We also barely touched the whole croaker fish that arrived unexpectedly as part of our meal. However, I couldn't get enough of the piece de resistance: homemade tofu served in a warm broth. It was tender, flavorful and comfort food at its best. Just as wonderful was damchang, a warming stew with zucchini and potato.
The most unique dish we had was one of their specialities: Mineral Stone Rice Bowl. What arrived was rice cooked with mineral water and served in a stone bowl with nuts, ginseng, pine nuts and chestnuts. Again, it was nutty, soothing and wonderful.
Finally, for dessert after we devoured our rice, hot broth was poured back into the stone pot, created a warm elixir, filled with the crisp rice from the bottom.
Until I can make homemade tofu on my own, or I find a restaurant that does so in Boston, I may have to trek back soon.
Cho Dang Gol Korean Restaurant, 55 West 35 Street, NYC, NY, 212-695-8222