Great new asian place in Lacey (Olympia) - Tofu Hut
Don't let the name fool you. Nor the fact that they bill themselves as Asian Fusion (shudder). Tofu Hut is the best asian restaurant in Oly right now! Rather than asian fusion, I would say that they offer authentic dishes from a variety of asian cultures.
A little about me, so you know where I am coming from on this review: I was born and raised by true chowhound-ies. It is what my family _does_ - we cook and eat good food, from all over the world. My father is of Japanese descent and my mother is from England (don't hold that against her, she can actually cook! ^.^), my step mother's parents are Hungarian and Texan, and we all have traveled (and eaten!) all over the world. We have eaten in some of the most expensive and cheapest places you have ever been. It is not the cost or the hype... it is the food!
That said, living in Olympia is like living in exile. In my opinion, there are almost NO good restaurants here, let alone excellent ones, and the few that are tend to be terribly inconsistent.
I was driving home from a friend's house when I saw a "Grand Opening" banner on a pre-fab looking house like building, and a large sign proudly declaring "Tofu Hut". I am always on the prowl for new restaurants, particularly asian ones (my fav kind of food). I think I am always hoping that this time, PLEASE this time, let it be a truly good place. There are several places in town I do really like well enough, but one needs variety!
My partner, her parents, and I went there together. Inside, the decor is simple, clean, and nice. The booths are a bit like McDonalds, which I thought was odd, but whatever. Their bathrooms are very clean - but don't hold that against them! (it always seems like the better and more authentic the asian restaurant the scarier their bathroom!)
An old family friend always judges each Japanese restaurant he goes to by its mackerel - I judge Thai restaurants by their Phad Thai and how Americanized (aka ketchup!) it is. When I asked the server (who later turned out to be the owner!) if it was brown salty kind or the sweet red kind (she probably thought I was horribly simple, but most people really don't understand the difference!) she was quick to assure me it was the brown salty kind. I ordered it with tofu (I am currently a vegetarian) and she came back to make sure that I was ok with fish sauce. I assured her I was (I guess I am really more of an Asian-tarian ^.^) When it came, it didn't look like like it had that much on it but the flavor was fantastic! Clearly made from scratch, with tamarind, chilies, fish sauce, roasted peanuts, etc. The tofu was fried, but it wasn't heavy or dried out, as many are. It was very light and flavorful, with a thin crispy outside, and warm soft inside (_good_ fresh tofu has an excellent flavor that doesn't need to be covered up). It worked excellently with the dish and the whole dish was a huge hit at our table.
My partner got a kind of seafood stir fried udon in a spicy korean sauce. Now, I like korean very much, but sometimes there is too much uniformity of flavor and it can be a bit bland within that, namely chili powder! But the sauce was delicious, layered and complex in flavor. The seafood was not tough (hard to do often times) and the udon was soft and perfectly soaked up the flavors. Later when the cook (the mama of the owner) came out, she told us how this dish was her creation and her kids always scarfed it up when ever she made it. The only reason my partner didn't eat it all was that she was too busy sampling off all the other plates as well!
Her dad got chap chae with beef, which was surprisingly light. Often Chap chae is too heavy and oily for me. The flavor was excellently balanced, with sesame present but not overpowering (as so many places do).
Her mom got koren bbq ribs. It was just meat and onions, grilled in a spicy korean sauce. I was assured that this dish was excellent as well.
We went there later that week with a friend and I did not have, but I saw a Japanese Curry Rice that looked and smelled excellent and clearly looked like it was made from scratch and not a packet (like most places do). The gyoza also looked and smelled amazing. My friend got the pad thair on my recommendation, although she got it quite a bit spicier! The fried rice I had was not as good as I would have liked - it was made with fresh rice - I prefer it with rice that's a bit older and so more dried out. This time we tried the vegan cheesecake - my friend who absolutely loves cheesecake said it was amazing and she would have to find out how to make it, since it was so much healthier than regular cheesecake!
The next time I go, I am going to get the "tofu sampler", an appetizer that showcases their super fresh tofu.
All in all, I was wonderfully surprised with the quality and authenticity. As well as very reasonable prices! The service was very good, and both times the cook came out herself to see how we were (which for Olympia is stunningly amazing). I made a point of asking when the Korean mama is cooking, and she is cooking for all shifts right now. I would recommend this place hands down and want to encourage people to go there so that it stays around!!!
4804 Pacific Ave, Lacey, WA
We had a very pleasant dinner at the Tofu Hut last weekend -- a good variety of Korean, Thai, and other Asian dishes. Reasonable prices, good selection, and excellent food. The owner of Tofu Hut was previously the owner of Osaka up until 2002 (the sushi restaurant in Tanglewild near Lacey), and she recognized us as regulars at her previous place. She and her daughter Soo are gracious hosts, and we look forward to many return visits to try more items on the menu.