A most colorful bibimbap. Tofu Ka.
9379 Mira Mesa Boulevard, San Diego
My continuing exploration of Korean restaurants in San Diego has finally taken me out of my comfort zone. No, I didn't eat anything outside the reach of my gringo palate. I did, however, pick a restaurant that wasn't on or near Convoy Street in Kearny Mesa. To find Tofu Ka, I had to dig deeper, further north, into a different mesa: Mira.
Sometimes you've just gotta go see an after-dinner IMAX at the Edwards multiplex, and when you do that, where're you going to eat, Panera Bread? Only if your date's a picky eater. Mine this night was feeling adventurous, so I talked her into checking out an independently owned restaurant just a couple blocks from the theater. Tofu Ka is the recent replacement of another Korean restaurant on this site, Fuze, which was actually (as the name implies) more of a fusion spot and prone to things such as Korean tacos and quesadillas.
Good service kept me from pushing that button as often as I'd have liked.
Tofu Ka's definitely not like that. The bibimbap (rice, sautéed vegetables, and meat in a bowl), tofu stew, and chae (sweet potato noodles stir-fried with vegetables) menu reads authentic through and through, and while the banchan (small-portion side dishes) selection featured jalapeño a little more than I'm accustomed to, the restaurant's overall vibe is that of a homey, family restaurant. Then again, there are little call buttons at each table that allow you to summon a waiter with a clever little bit of 1990s technology. Fortunately, my server responded to my gleeful over-pushing of this button with a much friendlier manner than flight attendants I've encountered.
We kept it simple, going for bibimbap, sundubu jjigae (soft tofu stew), and some dumplings. The bibimbap ($10) was loaded with a little beef bulgogi (grilled, marinated beef) and a bunch of veggies — some fresh, some fermented. Nothing remarkable — bibimbap never is — but filling, nourishing, and tasty even without the restaurant's offering of purple rice (which I did wind up trying... it tasted pretty darn similar to the white rice).
Jjin mandoo, a.k.a. pork-and-beef dumplings. Tofu Ka.
The sundubu jjigae (soft tofu stew, $9) was interesting, with a little more of a smoky flavor than I've found at other restaurants. Not outstanding, like that of [Convoy Tofu House], but this difference intrigued me, and it certainly surpassed the bland versions I've eaten elsewhere.
The jjin mandoo ($7) were my favorite. We tried the steamed version of the pork and beef dumplings — crisper fried versions were also available. The ground meat was succulent and tasty, served with a nicely tart dipping sauce (and more jalapeños). Were I on Convoy, I'd have found this shop a little ho-hum, but in the shadow of the multiplex, the jjin mandoo just about made up for some mediocre banchan.