The menu at Tofu House, Reno’s newest Korean eatery, has a lot of strengths.
The menu at Tofu House, Reno’s newest Korean eatery, has a lot of strengths.

To celebrate another personal orbit around the sun, my friends recently took me to Tofu House, Reno’s newest Korean restaurant. We began by ordering beer ($7) and soju to ($13) create a cocktail known as somaek, a popular combination in South Korea. The 18 percent ABV spirit is lightly sweet, and the end result is something like a weak boilermaker.

Properly warmed up, we moved on to appetizers. Crispy pork and veggie pot stickers ($6.95, eight pieces) were served with a pair of sauces and gone in seconds. A plate-sized scallion and seafood pancake ($14.95) had a crispy, almost hashbrown-like texture—full of long-cut green onion, white fish, octopus, shrimp and other goodies.

Ddeokbokki ($12.95) is stir-fried Korean rice cake—something like a fat, spongy pasta—mixed with sweet fish cake, boiled egg, ramen noodle, onion and cabbage swimming in a pool of sweet chili sauce. It’s tasty, but huge. Speaking of huge, Korean fried chicken ($19.95) involves chopping, battering and deep-frying an entire three-pound bird to be served either plain, sweet and spicy, or half and half. It was good plain but really something with the sauce.

Korean entrees are served with banchan, a series of small dishes intended to enhance the experience. Our lineup included kimchi, spicy daikon radish, sweet fish cake, pickled bean sprout, and a potato salad that was basically chunky mashed potatoes. All were fine, with the kimchi a standout. I do love some good, spicy fermented cabbage.

A pair of my companions ordered hot stone pot rice bowls, one beef bulgogi ($13.95) and the other beef bibimbap ($12.95). The former included marinated beef with mushroom, scallion, onion, carrot, cabbage and pepper paste; it was quite good. The bibimbap was pretty much the same thing, but with a black sesame seeded fried egg on top, and considerably less beef. We asked why that bowl had just a couple of pieces of meat and were told, “That’s how it’s served.” I’ve been served bibimbap at other places with much more meat, so this was a little surprising. Without the meat, the bowl was a bit bland and disappointing.

Japchae was next ($11.95). It’s a plate of stir-fried Korean glass noodles with marinated beef, zucchini, mushroom, carrot and bean sprout. When I’ve had this as part of banchan, it’s been very simple and lightly sweet, with a lot of herb and fragrant spice. Adding those other ingredients made it something I’d order for lunch every week.

My friend’s plate of spicy stir-fried squid ($18.95) included mushroom, scallion, onion, zucchini and jalapeño, with noodles on the side. The thin strips of mollusc were just about as tender as I’ve tasted, and the combination of flavors made me wonder if I’d ordered the wrong entree. But I had eyes only for the sundubu soup.

Sundubu is silky soft tofu, and of the soups I chose “assorted” ($13.95), which mixed beef, seafood, mushroom, zucchini and soft tofu, with a fresh, raw egg on the side. The soup is served bubbling in a hot stone bowl, so you crack the egg over it and slowly stir as it cooks into the soup. Combined with the velvety tofu, the result is rich, creamy and delicious. There is lot to like about Tofu House, but that soup is the reason I’ll return.

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