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Mystery Korean Tofu Joint in Rockville

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OK, so in a recent thread,"monkeyrotica" posted a link to this invaluable list of reviews of area Korean restuarants --

http://www.koreandc.com/restaurant/li...

And No. 1 on the hit parade -- with reviews to die for -- is some sort of tofu place with no English name and no address, in Rockville. http://www.koreandc.com/restaurant/de....

A google search turned up this mouth-watering review of what must be the place --

http://jakpot1277.blogspot.com/2006/0... --

but again, no address or English name, except that "Tofu House" appears to be part of it. (Indeed, the writer wasn't even sure whether it was Korean or Chinese.

)

Shouldn't take us long to figure it out, right? And to report back?

And while we're at it, anyone have thoughts about some of the other highly-rated places on that Korean Restaurant site, esp. in, e.g., Annandale and Beltsville?

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  1. Could this be it? If so, there's also one in Annandale.
    From http://www.koreayellowpage.com/blist_...

    Vit Guel Tofu House
    4121 Chatelain Rd #100 Annandale, VA 22003
    Telephone: (703)333-3436
    Map

    Vit Guel Tofu House
    12710 Twinbrook Pkwy Rockville, MD 20852
    Telephone: (301)881-1178
    Map

    7 Replies
    1. re: cheesepowder

      That must be it. The Virginia location gets reviews almost as unanimously positive (one dissenter brings down the average):

      http://www.koreandc.com/restaurant/de...

      And here's a more comprehensive description:

      http://dcfud.smorgasblog.com/archives...

      I'll try to check it out soon, although it sounds more suited for a cold winter's day. If anyone tries it, please report back.

      1. re: MartyL

        Thanks for the tip. I actually work in Rockville so I tried the Tofu House for lunch today and enjoyed my tofu stew. I pictured a restaurant in a strip mall, but it was actually in its own, standalone building (with a parking lot). The sign says Lighthouse Tofu & BBQ, Now Open (although from the date of the comments on the Korean site, it seems to have been open at least since the beginning of this year.) The restaurant inside is bright and spacious with wood tables. Around noon, the place was only about one third to one half full with both Koreans and non-Asians. The waitresses wore Korean dress and were friendly and spoke English. Service was also pretty quick.

        Menu: They specialize in tofu stew (soon dooboo). The menu is in a plastic stand on each table and lists tofu stews for $7.99 for lunch, $8.99 for dinner. The stew varieties are: 1- mushroom; 2- clam, shrimp, oyster & beef; 3- clam, shrimp, & oyster; 4- kimchee beef; 5- oyster; 6- pork & beef; 7- beef; and 8- vegetable. You can select the spice level for the stew – white, mild, medium, spicy, and spicy spicy. They also have Korean bbq, marinated beef (bool go gee), mixed seafood and vegetable pancake, noodles with small octopus broth and special sauce, noodles with stir fried small squid with spicy sauce, and stir fried small squid vegetable with spicy sauce, ranging in price from $9.99, $12.99 and $15.99.

        They give you cold barley tea (boreecha) for water. I ordered the pork & beef tofu stew with a spicyness level of “spicy.” The waitress brought over a cart with my dishes. She gave me the stew which was bubbling hot in a stone pot. She also gave me a small dish containing a raw egg still in the shell for me to crack into the stew. Then she had another stone pot with rice, and she scooped rice out of this pot into a stainless steel bowl which she gave me. Then she scooped some excess rice out of the stone pot into another stainless steel bowl (that I presume she took back into the kitchen with her), and she poured barley tea into the stone pot with the rice. She gave me that stone pot with a big plastic spoon. By the end of my meal, the barley tea in the stone pot was very warm, and I could scoop up the soft and browned bits of watery rice from the stone pot.

        She also gave me four side dishes: (1) bean sprouts, (2) something that looked like chopped raw garlic with chopped raw oysters (?) in red pepper sauce, (3) kimchee in cold orange water/kimchee juice (?) (4) pickled spicy cucumber in thick round slices (seemed slightly sweeter and less garlicy than the kind at A&J), and (5) kimchee – the kind that’s not yet fermented. It was strips of napa cabbage in hot pepper sauce with a touch of fish/seafood flavor (personally I prefer the fermented kind but this was good for what it is.)

        My stew was chock full of soft and custardy tofu in a spicy broth. The meat bits were more of an accent, the tofu was really the main ingredient. I'm also not sure I got pork and beef, it looked like just beef to me. I stirred my egg into the stew so it kind of blended in. The stew tasted as I expected it should (I say that because I’m Korean American). I have a medium to medium high tolerance for spicy, and I was satisfied with the “spicy” level of the stew (the heat (temperature) of the stew also accentuates the spicyness). To me, it was the level of spicy I would expect if I ordered the stew at a Korean restaurant without specifying the spicyness level, though I don't know how much of a gradient there is between medium and spicy or spicy and spicy spicy. It was pretty inexpensive for a filling lunch, and I even took half my stew home (they have Styrofoam containers, and the waitress helped me scoop the stew into the container). I’d go back again and try the other items on the menu.

        1. re: cheesepowder

          What a great report! You made me feel like I had lunch with you. Vit Gol has good word of mouth in Annandale, but I've never been. Also of interest is the following list from the Korean Embassy: www.dynamic-korea.com

          By Chi-hyun Cho

          For those of you who are looking for Korean restaurants around the Washington D.C. area, here is a recommended list:

          For Korean BBQ:

          Nak Won Restaurant
          7315 Little River Turnpike
          Annandale, VA 22003
          703-354-9255

          Seoul House
          11272 James Swart Circle
          Fairfax, VA 22030
          703-934-8250

          Ye Chon
          4121 Hummer Road
          Annandale, VA 22003
          703-914-4646

          Woo Lae Oak Restaurant
          1500 S. Joyce St.
          Arlington, VA 22202
          703-521-3706

          For Kalgooksu (Korean flat flour noodles):

          Palace Home Style Noodle Inc.
          3250 Old Lee Highway
          Fairfax, VA 22030
          703-352-7799

          Jung’s Restaurant
          6499 Little River Turnpike
          Alexandria, VA 22312
          703-642-1444

          For light Korean meals (Boon-shik):

          Café Muse
          7356-B Little Turnpike
          Annandale, VA 22003
          703-658-9351

          Nulbom Restaurant
          7031-D Little Turnpike #21
          Annandale, VA 22003
          703-354-7031

          Myung-Ga Gim Bap
          9643 Lee Highway
          Fairfax, VA 22031
          703-934-0112

          For a variety of Korean traditional dishes:

          Yee Hwa Korean Restaurant
          1009 21st St. N.W.
          Washington, D.C. 20036
          202-833-1244

          Palace Restaurant
          7131 Little River Turnpike
          Annandale, VA 22003
          703-256-9292

          For Tofu dishes:

          Book Chang Dong Tofu
          7601 Little River Turnpike #1F-1
          Annandale, VA 22003
          703-658-0508

          Vit Goel Tofu
          4121 Chatelain Rd. #100
          Annandale, VA 22003

          1. re: Steve

            i haven't been to the specialty tofu houses yet to compare, but ye chon makes excellent tofu stews. the seafood tofu stew was most excellent (and pricey too).

          2. re: cheesepowder

            Is this the standalone building with a (fairly bright) blue roof?

            1. re: Smokey

              Sorry, I don't remember the color of the roof. But, if it helps, if you're going north on Rockville Pike, turn right on Twinbrook Parkway. Go past Ardennes Avenue, and it'll be on the left side of the road. The building has a pretty noticeable sign/banner hanging from the building that says Lighthouse Tofu and BBQ.

            2. re: cheesepowder

              No time for a full report, but this place is a real keeper. (And yes, Smokey, it's the blue roof; used to be House of Chinese Chicken or some such thing.)

              We had the Nos. 2 and 4 soon dooboo (clam, shrimp and oyster; kimchee & beef); and the noodles with stir-fried small squid with spicy sauce. All delicious. The tofu is really good -- very custardy, and holds up for quite a while in the spicy sauce.

              And this place is no secret -- even in the midst of a storm, it was very crowded for lunch, and the tables were turning.

        2. Since you ask about the places in Beltsville: I've been to all of them, though it's been a few months since my last meal at any of them.

          Da Rae Won: This is a "Chinese-style" Korean place, mostly noodle soups. I've only been here once, and what I had was just ok, mainly notable for the spiciness. The noodles are made fresh there; perhaps I got the wrong thing as several other diners appeared to be having more interesting meals. I went to this place on the rec of another chowhound several months ago. Of all the places in Beltsville, this one appeared to have the most Korean clientele, for what that's worth. Original post:
          http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

          Gar Rahm (misspelled? Always thought it was Gah-Rahm. Anyway). In same shopping center as above. This place is sprawling and ambitious, featuring Korean bbq, sushi bar, weekday buffet, and an extensive menu. I've only really scratched the surface here after several visits, but most of the dishes I've had (mainly Korean casseroles and soups) have been excellent and really spicy.

          Myong Dong: A small mom and pop lunch place with just a few tables, mainly serving cold noodle dishes. Tasty and cheap for lunch, though not spectacular. Recently moved to another location within the same shopping center, I have not been since they relocated.

          1. I can't read the Korean text right now, but once I get home to my desktop with the Korean language pack installed, I will make sure to try and translate the name & location of the mysterious Soon Doo Boo house you mentioned and post it.

            1 Reply
            1. re: drjimkim

              DrJimKim:

              See above -- I think it's

              Vit Guel Tofu House
              12710 Twinbrook Pkwy Rockville, MD 20852
              Telephone: (301)881-1178

            2. The stews there are very homey, I think that the "best" one there is the Kimchee stew-be sure to crack the raw egg into it before you start. The panchan there is definitely homestyle, things that we had on the dinner table every night growing up. Be sure to have the nu-ring-gee-bop (the gruel which they make by pouring the barley tea into the black rice pot after they've served the rice). I can't say anything for the meat dishes that they serve (the bulgogi and kahlbi) because why bother with them, the tofu stews are what you're there for. A word of warning, you can order the stews one of, I believe, 4-5 spicy levels. Beware of ordering it extra spicy-they don't pull punches-it will blow you top off.

              1. Thanks for your suggestions, Jule. At what spiciness level do YOU order? And what level would correspond to how the food would usually be served in Korea?

                1 Reply
                1. re: Steve

                  IIRC, the scale is

                  1. White

                  2. Mild

                  3. Medium

                  4. Spicy

                  5. Spicy Spicy

                  I ordered Medium, and it was plenty spicy, great flavors. I'd try Spicy next time. I'm told that Spicy Squared can take the roof of one's mouth off (not that that's a bad thing!).

                2. Thanks very much to cheesepowder and Marty L. for scouting out this place. Had a really great meal at the Annandale location; a true revelation. The custardy stew - we got the #2 seafood and beef combo- has amazing texture and richness. Ordering it spicy produces a stew I think anyone can handle. Also added the bbq ribs which were the best I've had by a long yard. Small selection of panchan, but quality is high, especially the somewhat crunchy squash - magnificent flavor. Easily the best Korean meal I've had in the area.

                  1. Eve Ziebart did a recent review of the Tofu House in Annandale the Washington Post.

                    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/...

                    1. anyone know if this tofu stew is normally made with a fish or meat stock? thanks all

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Jamie D

                        Traditionally it is made with beef bone stock.

                      2. This place is it for soon du bu (Viet Gol in Annandael). I wish I had known about this place earlier. I tried the galbi and would recommend it also. Probably has become my favorite korean eatery in the area now.

                        I got the soon du bu spicy but it wasn't really spicy enough for me. I'll probably get spicy *2 next time.