Thursday, February 6, 2014

Let's Eat the Stupid Soup and Then Go Drink

Soondubu Jjigae Soup -- Cho Dang Gol
Cho Dang Gol

"I'm concerned about the drink options at this place."

This, ladies and gentlemen is the perpetual story of our lives.
Our Booze Choices Always Remain Our Number One Concern
We are on our way to Cho Dang Gol to consume something we don't know how to pronounce (soondubu jjigae soup), which Judy Joo featured on the AS GOOD AS MOM'S episode of Best Thing I Ever Ate, and we are preemptively hostile.  Generally speaking, Asian restaurants are the homes of some things we love (namely noodles) and other things we hate (a terrible cocktail menu, if such a menu exists at all).

Upon arriving at the restaurant, Ginger texts Vodka a picture of Cho Dang Gol's drink menu, featuring such gems as "plum wine," and even worse, the highly dreaded "rice wine."
Well, THIS Will Never Do
"Let's eat the stupid soup and then go drink," is all Vodka texts back, and minutes later, when she is lost in Koreatown, she is heartened to find an Irish Pub located just down the street, a place that she is certain will ply us with gin, or at the very least, normal wine.

When she finally manages to stumble into the correct restaurant, Vodka finds a solitary figure in the corner, drinking stoically out of a large wine glass.

"They have red," Ginger says by way of greeting.  "It's just labeled as 'red.'  But it serves the purpose."
If Nothing Else, We Appreciate the Relatively Large Pour
We quickly become overwhelmed by the menu, and set our sights on words we understand ("dumplings" and "noodles").  
They Spend A Lot of Time "Distressing" The Menus at This Place....
There is some confusion about the soup we're supposed to be consuming, as it is called by a different name on the menu, but we are assured that it is the soft tofu stew we are after (and we order the seafood variety, because, why not?).  
In Truth, This Decision Was Made Like This: "Fish?" "Sure."
We also choose the dumpling appetizer and the jap chae (again, merely because it has the word "noodles" in it).  
Look, We Know What We Like
All of our food arrives within minutes (we know this only because our wine is barely gone), and it is all hot.  Not just spicy hot (although it is that, too), but HOT.  So hot that the soup is actually boiling.  Never one for patience, however, we dive in.

And are promptly spitting out our food onto our plates while fanning our tongues.
Sorry, We Forgot to Mention, Cho Dang Gol, That We Like Our Food COOLED OFF
First things first, the tofu stew is, besides being scalding, quite spicy.  "Unbearable," in the words of Ginger, until we decide to stop eating it as a soup at all, and begin ladling it on top of white rice as if it is General Tso's Chicken.  
We Make Korea So Proud
With the rice cutting down both the temperature and the spice level, we find the flavors of the stew itself rather pleasing -- the tofu itself, which neither of us is a particular fan of, is especially appealing.  Soft and mushy in texture, it has succeeded in taking on every taste inherent in the soup.  
In Truth, This Is Just About the Only Tofu Vodka Has Ever Enjoyed
The seafood in this cauldron is a bit of an afterthought, and when we are halfway through the serving, Vodka asks Ginger what she would rank it.

"4 stars?"
"We didn't even eat it like a soup."
"But it tasted good with rice."
"I would never order this again."
"Right, me neither."
"3 stars."

Sorry, Cho Dang Gol, but we really prefer our food "tepid" to "lukewarm."
Excellent Rice Though. Truly Superb
The dumplings, which are among the largest varieties we have ever seen, are good if unremarkable (and come with barely a thimble-full of accompanying sauce.  Look, people, we only eat for the condiments -- you're going to have to serve up more than that).
How Exactly Are We Supposed to Fit THESE... THAT?!
The jap chae is by far our favorite item on the table, featuring a large pile of glass noodles sprinkled with assorted vegetables and beef.  
In General, Stuff Noodles In Our Mouths, and We'll Stop Complaining
Our entrees also come with an array of assorted side dishes, which the waitstaff does not bother to explain to us (they're obviously quite aware that all such descriptions would be lost on two fools whose main concern in this place is how high their wine glasses are filled).
So Many Sides, So Little Idea What We're Eating
When our table is cleared, we are presented with two (paltry servings of) ginger tea, which may just be our favorite thing on the menu, meaning it is a shame that there is so little of it.  
One Swallow's Worth of Tea
By the time we each make our way to the walk-through-the-kitchen bathroom (note: not the best restroom set-up we've ever seen, being that we are almost run over by various trays of boiling stew), the place is a flurry of activity with each and every table full, and a few guests lingering at the door.
Maybe We Could Ask Some of THEM to Explain the Side Dishes to Us
And at this point, Cho Dang Gol has clearly decided it is time for us to go.  As Ginger spends all of thirty seconds tapping at her phone in order to determine where her train is, we are accosted by a host mumbling something about "needing the table."

"Yeah, yeah, we're going," Ginger dismisses him, still poking at her phone, and we make not-so-pleasant faces at the waitstaff as we mosey out on our own terms.

"I believe we were just kicked out," Vodka says to Ginger when we hit the sidewalk, and for this reason alone, we have no plans to make a return trip to Cho Dang Gol any time soon.  Instead, we'll frequent the places that will serve us gin, blow on our soup, and allow us to linger at our bar stools for however long we please.

Cho Dang Gol's Soondubu Jjigae Soup: 3 stars

1 comment:

  1. Soon dubu jigae is not meant to be eaten as a soup it is considered a stew and in Korea you would ladle this onto rice rather than eat it like an American soup.

    Also this dish is meant to be served piping boiling hot as many Korean stews are. So what you deem as negatives are actually signature features of this dish. Just thought you should know!