The air has not felt like Hawaii in the past few days; all thanks to a low pressure system that has brought blustery winds, passing showers, high surf, and colder temperatures to the islands. On weekends like this, many locals (including myself) look to soupy comfort foods to help warm our bones and our spirits. The cold weekend provided the perfect excuse to check out the newly opened Seoul Tofu House for a bowl of pipping hot soondubu.

 

Outdoor seating at Seoul Tofu House
Although some nice outdoor seating is available, wind gusts kept patrons inside this weekend

Seoul Tofu House is conveniently located in the 1st floor of The Laylow hotel in Waikiki, just minutes away from easy parking at the International Market Place. This pocket of Waikiki is fast becoming a food hotspot with new eateries opening up all around. The entrance to Seoul Tofu House is right off Kuhio. The interior of the restaurant had ample seating, which was good given the windy conditions outside rendered the patio seating undesirable. We arrived shortly after opening at 11:00am to a nearly empty restaurant, but by the time we left I think all but one table was occupied.

 

Assorted soondubu from Seoul Tofu House
Assorted soondubu with beef, shrimp, octopus, and clams

As the name would suggest, Seoul Tofu House’s menu revolves around one main item: soondubu. For those unfamiliar, soondubu is a spicy jigae (Korean stew) featuring soft tofu. The broth is spiced up using gochujang chili paste and powder. The entire stew is often constructed and prepared inside its serving vessel, which is typically made of black porcelain or stone. The hot bowl ensures that the dish arrives bubbling to the table, while also keeping it warm as you eat.

The menu offers eight different variations of soondubu, varying by what kind of protein you’d like. There are also an additional three non-spicy versions of the dish with either a tomato, curry, or plain soup base for those looking for a less chili-fueled option. In all instances you can specify one of three levels of spiciness: Regular, hot, or danger. A few Korean BBQ and cold noodle options round out the rest of the menu. But, judging by the dozens of steaming bowls leaving the kitchen, soondubu is by far the dish to come here for.

 

Assorted soondubu bansang at Seoul Tofu House
Assorted soondubu “bansang”

All of the soondubu variations at Seoul Tofu House are served as a bansang. Bansang is a meal setting that typically consists of rice, banchan (side dishes), and your main menu item. Seoul Tofu House presents its soondubu with four different banchan dishes, represented today by kimchee, fishcake, green beans, and pumpkin. As usual, additional servings of the banchan can be ordered at no extra charge. A raw egg is also provided which you can crack into the hot bowl of soup.

OVERALL IMPRESSIONS

I must say that the spicy, hearty Korean stew really hit the spot today. The spiciness level (we ordered “hot”) was just right, providing a good kick of heat without numbing the palate. My assorted soondubu had a good variety of proteins which upped the flavor complexity of the broth. Although not the cheapest soondubu bansang in town, I felt this was a good value given the quality and quantity provided.

Seoul Tofu House is still in soft opening. They just added on lunch service this weekend, but word seems to have gotten out as the restaurant was nearly full when we left at around noon. Time will tell if the tourist appetite for soondubu will keep the tables full. But, for us locals, the soondubu here is certainly worth a try.

SCORECARD

Food 85/ 100
Service 85/ 100
Atmosphere 80/ 100
Price Value 90/ 100
Overall Score 85/ 100

Seoul Tofu House
The Laylow Hotel
2299 Kuhio Avenue
Honolulu, HI 96815
808.376.0018