4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Tofu House goes to college

At latest chapter of Korean favorite, a robot brings hot stone pots to the table

A service robot delivers hot stone bibimbap at the new college area Tofu House.
A service robot delivers hot stone bibimbap at the new college area Tofu House.

This wasn’t intended to be a story about a robot.

When Tofu House opened a new location near SDSU this October, this Korean food fan was elated. Usually, I’m happy to leave college area restaurants to the students who frequent them, but there are only so many Korean restaurants outside the Convoy area, and this one instantly became the closest to my house by a good several miles. As a bonus: it’s got a much less crowded parking lot.

Place

Tofu House SDSU

6061 El Cajon Blvd suite 4, San Diego

It wouldn’t be long before I showed up to the El Cajon Boulevard eatery with my wife. She wanted the chef’s special soft tofu stew (also known as soondubu jjigae), which comes loaded with kimchi and shellfish, including oysters, clams, scallops, and shrimp ($12). I would go for the meat party bibimbap. This rendition of the rice bowl features marinated ribeye bulgogi, short ribs, and spicy chicken.

A shrimp is visible beneath the surface of the broth in the chef's special soft tofu stew.

Part of Tofu House’s allure, both dishes are served in steaming and sizzling stone bowls, hot enough to cook an egg, say one of the raw eggs set with your table for this purpose. I’ll have to admit now, I’ve ordered hot stone bowl dishes at the original Kearney Mesa Tofu House many times and never considered how perilous it must be for the servers to carry them from the kitchen to your table. Imagine carrying a potential second-degree burn on a small tray, through a crowded restaurant.

Every meal at Tofu House includes banchan (side dishes)

Which may be why Tofu House added a new member to its staff: the robot in question.

When our hot stone bowls emerged from the kitchen, they sat atop trays being carried by a four-foot robot. Though it has what appear to be a pair of square blue eyes, the robot has no nose or mouth, and neither arms nor legs. It’s really designed more like a vertical rack that can carry up to four food trays on a heavy, wheeled bass.

The "meat party" bibimbap, with bulgogi, short rib, and spicy chicken

The robot rolled across the restaurant with our orders, broadcasting its own, jaunty soundtrack loud enough to call attention to itself. It (maybe she?) then said something unintelligible to me, possibly along the lines of “Be careful, it’s hot!”

The robot brings the hot dish to the table, while the waitress stands by to transfer it to the table.

You can’t really talk about robots these days without talking about how they’re going to displace us all, so it’s natural to be concerned this little tray robot has taken someone’s job. However, I would point out that the same gracious, human waitress both took our orders and transferred the still seriously hot bowls from the robot’s tray to our respective placemats. Ultimately, the robot simply relieved her of the part where scorching, gochujang spiced broth could spill out to scald her while she walks. Sounds like a win-win to me.

As does the arrival of craveable Korean food in another part of San Diego. Someday, I’d like to see good Korean fare within ten minutes of us all. Until then, I’ll gladly visit this place for the robot, beer or soju, and $20 combo meals featuring both a rice bowl and tofu stew. But take note: the robot doesn’t deliver to the trove of outdoor patio seating.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Ichiban Sando has a way of making fried meats feel special

Milk bread, ube, and animal prints make for memorable sandwiches
Next Article

The sometimes unpredictable path to motherhood

Andra Day, Price of Dope, Sully Band, Adam Gnade, Augustana
A service robot delivers hot stone bibimbap at the new college area Tofu House.
A service robot delivers hot stone bibimbap at the new college area Tofu House.

This wasn’t intended to be a story about a robot.

When Tofu House opened a new location near SDSU this October, this Korean food fan was elated. Usually, I’m happy to leave college area restaurants to the students who frequent them, but there are only so many Korean restaurants outside the Convoy area, and this one instantly became the closest to my house by a good several miles. As a bonus: it’s got a much less crowded parking lot.

Place

Tofu House SDSU

6061 El Cajon Blvd suite 4, San Diego

It wouldn’t be long before I showed up to the El Cajon Boulevard eatery with my wife. She wanted the chef’s special soft tofu stew (also known as soondubu jjigae), which comes loaded with kimchi and shellfish, including oysters, clams, scallops, and shrimp ($12). I would go for the meat party bibimbap. This rendition of the rice bowl features marinated ribeye bulgogi, short ribs, and spicy chicken.

A shrimp is visible beneath the surface of the broth in the chef's special soft tofu stew.

Part of Tofu House’s allure, both dishes are served in steaming and sizzling stone bowls, hot enough to cook an egg, say one of the raw eggs set with your table for this purpose. I’ll have to admit now, I’ve ordered hot stone bowl dishes at the original Kearney Mesa Tofu House many times and never considered how perilous it must be for the servers to carry them from the kitchen to your table. Imagine carrying a potential second-degree burn on a small tray, through a crowded restaurant.

Every meal at Tofu House includes banchan (side dishes)

Which may be why Tofu House added a new member to its staff: the robot in question.

When our hot stone bowls emerged from the kitchen, they sat atop trays being carried by a four-foot robot. Though it has what appear to be a pair of square blue eyes, the robot has no nose or mouth, and neither arms nor legs. It’s really designed more like a vertical rack that can carry up to four food trays on a heavy, wheeled bass.

The "meat party" bibimbap, with bulgogi, short rib, and spicy chicken

The robot rolled across the restaurant with our orders, broadcasting its own, jaunty soundtrack loud enough to call attention to itself. It (maybe she?) then said something unintelligible to me, possibly along the lines of “Be careful, it’s hot!”

The robot brings the hot dish to the table, while the waitress stands by to transfer it to the table.

You can’t really talk about robots these days without talking about how they’re going to displace us all, so it’s natural to be concerned this little tray robot has taken someone’s job. However, I would point out that the same gracious, human waitress both took our orders and transferred the still seriously hot bowls from the robot’s tray to our respective placemats. Ultimately, the robot simply relieved her of the part where scorching, gochujang spiced broth could spill out to scald her while she walks. Sounds like a win-win to me.

As does the arrival of craveable Korean food in another part of San Diego. Someday, I’d like to see good Korean fare within ten minutes of us all. Until then, I’ll gladly visit this place for the robot, beer or soju, and $20 combo meals featuring both a rice bowl and tofu stew. But take note: the robot doesn’t deliver to the trove of outdoor patio seating.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Park & Rec’s loving cup

Get Ur Freak On uses El Silencio mezcal cut with Real del Valle tequila
Next Article

The plant-based bread schtick of Ben and Esther’s Vegan Jewish Deli

Bagels and marble rye elevate fish-free and meatless versions of deli classics
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Drinks All Around — Bartenders' drink recipes Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories Fishing Report — What’s getting hooked from ship and shore From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Outdoors — Weekly changes in flora and fauna Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Street Style — San Diego streets have style Surf Diego — Real stories from those braving the waves Theater — On stage in San Diego this week Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close