So Gong Dong Tofu, Hartsdale
- roxlet Aug 8, 2013 10:23 AM
It is a new Korean "fast food" restaurant on Central Avenue that got a very nice review in the NY Times. Anybody been?
I rarely write a review on yelp, but I did for So Gong Dong Tofu in Hartsdale to balance out the information people were providing. Here is what I said.
I really want to like this place. The service is very good, and the staff is friendly and attentive. I am very familiar with Korean cuisine and have been a fan for many years.
The problem is the food. I have been there several times. First, the panchan. The panchan is the same three types each time (four the first time.) I have never been served so few in a Korean restaurant before. Usually there are anywhere from 6-17! The panchan here are a very boring cabbage kimchi without much flavor besides hot pepper paste, cold steamed bean sprouts in sesame oil, and a decent cucumber slice kimchi. The flavors are very light. The spicing on the two hot ones was good, but no other flavors. No Depth.
Now the food. The first two times I went I ordered the soondubu jjigae with beef and seafood, with the crispy hot stone rice bowl. The soondubu jjigae was good, but not great. There were only two shrimp which looked kind of beat up with the heads hanging off, and two small clams, the beef was very small pieces and very tender, but not much of it. The dish itself was nicely spiced, I asked for hot and it was, but not as much depth of flavor as I have had at other places. The raw egg added some flavor, but it wasn't up to what I am used to. At least the consistency was nice and thick, especially after the egg was added, but maybe too thick as I ate it became thicker. The stone bowl rice wasn't in the least bit crispy and they didn't come around with the hot water to add to the crispy remains.
The second time the rice wasn't crispy as well so they replaced it with another bowl. But while it was slightly crispy, it wasn't browned and the rice was kind of hard, to the point of not being able to chew it without fear of broken teeth. And this was after it soaked in the boiling water for several minutes. The beef was larger pieces that had no flavor and were a bit tough. The broth was nicely spicy but lacking in flavor even more than the first time, and there was only one shrimp and two small clams.
The third time I ordered the same, but not the crispy rice, but the kalguksu noodles. They brought out a large bowl of thin soup with tofu and kalguksu noodles. It was hot, but not served bubbling in a hot bowl like when you order without the noodles. It was very watery, had one bedraggled shrimp, and three tiny clams the size of my top joint of my thumb. Also there was no raw egg to add, I assume because the soup wasn't hot enough to cook it. The broth was so lacking in flavor that I couldn't eat more than a few sips. Boring. The noodles seemed to be commercial udon, not kalguksu, and had no flavor and poor texture. I asked for the check and gave them cash. They asked me if I wanted a credit slip and to come back again for a replacement. I agreed, but felt that I wouldn't bother. It is a 15 minute drive for me to So Gong Dong. For a ten minute longer drive I can go to Queens for great soondubu jjigae. They finally came back and returned my money instead of the credit. So I left a tip for 30% of the bill and left
As I said before, I really want to like this place. But I am amazed that it got a write up in the NY Times two days ago. My experience was nowhere near as good as the NY Times article, and that was with three visits.
I hope they improve. I will give them another chance in a few weeks.
My son ate there on Saturday with a friend and they really enjoyed it. He said they were among a small number of non-Asians there which is generally a good sign.
My son works at Citibank in Long Island City. I should tell him about Natural Tofu, since I assume he can take the subway there at lunch.
Sorry you had some bad experiences.....I was there once and was pretty happy with it. On the panchan, I didn't expect more than 3-4 dishes as compared to 6+ for a traditional BBQ place beacuse the place is more casual and the prices much cheaper. I came away seeing this as a good local place with inexpensive food, and something different, as opposed to a destination restaurant for a fantastic dinner.
I tried it last week and was very pleased. I don't claim to be an expert on Korean food, but we enjoyed it! We had pan fried dumplings which were very tasty. We enjoyed the small vegetable sides and ate them all. The cucumbers were excellent, I enjoyed the bean sprouts with the sesame oil, and the kim chee was fine. I don't recall the 4th or if there was a 4th side.
We ordered the barbequed beef short ribs and the bibimbap. Both were very good. I have had the barbequed beef prepared from HMart on our grill. This was better than what I cooked at home from HMart. I had had bibmbap at a Pan Asian restaurant in Mt Kisco. This was equal to that except at GDT, they omitted the egg. When my Chinese/Canadian friend inquired, she was told that it was too hard to clean the rocks, but if we wanted it without the rock, they served the egg in the kitchen. Odd response I thought.
The service was quite attentive. Our server was friendly and informative.
I will go back. I enjoyed it more than the restaurant across the street.
BTW, if it matters (as my Chinese friend noted), I was the only non-Asian in the restaurant.