You know that place you walk by all the time, or drive past on a regular basis, and wonder what the heck goes on in there? Pam’s Kitchen in the U-District was that kind of place for me, all interesting and mysterious until I finally ventured inside for dinner and found the food to be delicious. No more mystery, but now I knew that good food was to be found on that particular corner. Just up University from Pam’s is another one of those restaurants that seemed totally out of my sphere of experience, mostly because of their opening time. So it was that when that time got even later – pushed back from 8:00pm to 9:00pm! – Angela decided that we really needed to go inside 52nd Tofu House and investigate further.
The exterior is enough to pique your interest, with an apparent missing “Street” from the name itself, then the inexplicable white picket fence and apple motif. Inside, there is more of the country kitchen vibe, with a geese-patterned wallpaper border and dried flowers. There is one row of records mounted up high on the wall, and an eclectic bunch of vintage hanging light fixtures. It’s small – only five tables – but on this night almost all were occupied.
I don’t claim to be a Korean food aficionado, but luckily we had with us our resident expert. Ms. Kim pronounced the food pretty much what you’d expect at this price point and in this sort of venue, perhaps even just right for the late night second dinner crowd. We tried an assortment of dishes, starting with the green onion pancake – one of the favorites of the table. The beef bulgogi was nicely sweet for our western palates, but a bit too much so for the more discerning among us.
The shrimp and gyoza hot pot tofu soup was spicy as all get-out, but didn’t have a whole lot of flavor once you got past the initial punch of spice. Susie’s favorite of the night was the dukboki, a plate of compressed tubes of rice (much like mochi for those of us more familiar with Japanese food), served alongside ramen noodles, fish cake, and a few slices of hot dog thrown in for good measure. Apparently this is a typical Korean street food kind of dish, or the sort of comfort food that your mom might make for you. This version was super spicy, along with the rest of the meal, and a touch sweet as well. Delicious, though, and I could definitely picture digging my chopsticks into a plate of this on the street in Seoul.
Thanks, gals, for our great (late night) adventure!