Friday, March 20, 2009

The Soon Du Bu showdown in Koreatown (Los Angeles)

Soon Du Bu (From So Kong Dong)

In the three years I've been down here in Los Angeles, one of the things I was able to count on was the weather. Maybe I got spoiled by living in the South Bay where it was always sunny, dry, and all in all, the perfect weather. Although I told most people I missed the rain up North, but seriously, why would I complain about the So Cal weather? Well, I guess I asked for it. Once I moved to the SGV, the next thing I know, rain, snow (up in the SGV mountains), and Nor Cal like weather became the reality. However, one good thing came out of the change in the weather, my ability to eat various soup dishes, and Soon Du Bu has always been one of my favs over the years.

Now, there are many places to choose from, especially in Los Angeles' Koreatown, let's see which locations meet up to my standards!

First we have the ever popular BCD Chain:

As many have heard and probably tried BCD in the past, it's really just average at best Soon Du Bu. The best part of the meal is probably the fried fish given as part of the 반찬 (banchan) and the stone pot rice for the (noo-reung-ji), post Soon Du Bu.
My take on BCD is comparable to eating a burger at Burger King or Carl's Jr. While it hits the spot (especially if you're here after 2AM like I've done previously), it's just not a place you'd write home about (but I can blog about). The flavor of the soup is a bit bland and the ingredients used was a bit off. The clams and oysters tasted a bit muddy and slightly lacking. The best reason, and the ONLY reason I'd recommend BCD is the fact that it's open 24 hours (along with Nak Won and Hodori on Vermont). Come on, don't tell me you'd rather eat garbage food at Denny's than average Soon Du Bu like this:
Soon Du Bu @ BCD

Final Grade
  • Taste - 2.5 out of 5
  • Decor - 3 out of 5
  • Service - 3 out of 5
3575 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90010
Tel: (213) 382-6677
Onto the next stop, the famous So Kong Dong

After eating at BCD numerous times over the past few years, for some odd reason, I never made it to SKD until recently. What can I say other than BIG mistake! While one cannot expect gourmet food here, it was by far the best Soon Du Bu I've had. First of the all, the 반찬(banchan) here were a definite knotch above BCD, and included was the famous raw crabs.
반찬 (from Top Left: spicy cucumber, bean sprouts, raw crabs, kimchi, fish cakes)

Time for the main course, the soon du bu. The top picture will be the mild version, while as usual, I went with the extra spicy version:
(Top: Mild Combination Soon Du Bu. Bottom: Extra Spicy Soon Du Bu)

While there was a noticeable color difference, the extra spicy to me had just the right heat. At $8.99, (which was the same price for all 3 locations) it was a great meal. Unlike the version at BCD, the clams, and oyster were definitely much fresher and the soup had better flavors as well. After eating at SKD, I can definitely say I've become a fan. Unless I'm in Koreatown after 11PM, I don't see myself eating at BCD. The picture below shows the final product after mixing in the egg:
Now, after having what I can think is the best Soon Du Bu in Los Angeles, can Beverly Soon Du Bu top it??

Final Grade
  • Taste - 4.5 out of 5
  • Decor - 3 out of 5
  • Service - 3.5 out of 5
2716 W Olympic Blvd
Suite 104
Los Angeles, CA 90006
Tel: (213) 380-3737

Finally, let's hop across the street (literally) and try Beverly (Tofu House) Soon Du Bu!

Outside Beverly

As with every Korean Restaurant, we were served the panchan after ordering our dishes. One panchan that stood out was the individual tofu appetizer given to each patron. I guess each Soon Du Bu place has its own specialty side dish (BCD: Fish, Beverly: Tofu, SKD: Raw Spicy Crabs). The tofu as shown below, was refreshing and delicious.

To make sure my test was fair, I went with the combination Soon Du Bu, extra spicy as usual. The main gripe I had with Beverly was the fact the stone pot wasn't used for the noo-reung-ji at the end of the meal. After eating Soon Du Bu, the noo-reung-ji or the rice porridge really hits the spot. Below was the order of Soon Du Bu @ Beverly:

Soon Du Bu @ Beverly

Overall, the Soon Du Bu here was delicious, much much better than BCD. Yet, I think as a personal preference, I enjoyed the Soon Du Bu at So Kong Dong a bit more. Maybe I had a gripe about the lack of a stone pot rice (not really), but while Beverly makes a mean pot of Soon Du Bu, It's inches behind the competitor across the street. While that said, I personally think the service at Beverly was better (friendly ajumas) and the tofu starter was delicious. Honestly, you can't really go wrong with either Beverly or So Kong Dong.

Final Grade
  • Taste - 4 out of 5
  • Decor - 3.5 out of 5
  • Service - 4 out of 5
2717 W. Olympic Blvd.
Suite 108
Los Angeles, CA 90006
Tel: (213) 380-1113

To recap the 3 restaurants: BCD, I'd only recommend it if you're looking for a late night snack, post bar/club grubbing, or hell, if you're craving that fried fish appetizer, otherwise, stick with the power duo located on Olympic Blvd. There are ample parking at both restaurants, and street parking are available also. Before the weather gets any hotter here in So Cal, go get yourself a pot of Soon Du Bu!

While on the subject of Soon Du Bu, check out the video listed below:


xman said...

Soon Du Bu in norcal is better! ha ha ha

cocochanelella said...

my mouth is watering. I would probably be loyal to the restaurant that serves raw crab as a panchan

Pepsi Monster said...

A slight edge for SKD over BST? Blasphemy!!

J/K! I still think those two are way way way better than BCD. 24 hours is the only reason to go to BCD for soondubu.

Kat said...

Raw crab panchan would win me over too =9

Man Danny! You and your Soon Du Bu.... AYOH! lol

burumun said...

Welcome to the foodblogging world!! Yaay!
And 0.5 pt win for SKD for taste! Yes!! That's one more person on my side against Pepsi Monster!

Though, agreed, both are excellent. The tofu in sesame oil at BST is sooo good too.

kevinEats said...

Nice, it's been a while since I've had a good soon du bu. Your next task now is to go out and find the best bibimbap in K-town. ;)

Kung Food Panda said...

xman: it's not April 1st yet! LOL

Bonnie: You must try SKD when you're down in LA :)

Pepsi Monster: I liked Beverly, but I liked SKD just a bit more, but if you added the points, I think Beverly won....but taste to me is the most important category.

Kat: We'll do a Soon Du Bu and Salad crawl when you come up next time. Ha!

Fiona: Are we waging a battle against Pepsi?? He might have blackmail material against the two of us!

Kev: You know, I really need to do that. I love dol sol bi bim bap!.

Kat said...

Don't forget you owe me my "Souplantation" before this new torture.. hey if you are paying I will go =P

I am on again and no new post! Chop Chop KFP!!! lol

choisauce said...

oh good lord...

my 2 cents. im sorry but i will put both bcd over beverly any day bc i think beverly is just peppery has no depth in flavor. so kong dong is inconsistent in flavor. usually its under-salted and last i went it was waaay overly salty. everyone at the table agreed and so we told the waitress and voila it was fixed. it was pretty
good. love the spicy crab there like everyone else!

my top pick for ktown (and even glendale location) is tofu village. tons of gorgeous (and delicious) banchan and the soup is very consistently good. try it and let me know what u think!

p.s. i love how ur write out "banchan" in korean! im korean and i dont even know how to do that. ur such a fob!! (or worse, BOB! lol)

dustin said...

is bcd the only place that serves their rice in a stone pot?

mattatouille said...

bob = back on the boat. :)

Kung Food Panda said...

Kat: No prob, I said it, so the meal is on me. You better eat all salads though! =)

Choi: BCD has its benefits, since it's the only one of the 3 that's open 24 hours, but tastes wise, I think the other 2 are better. BUT, since I've only been to the other 2 (SKD and Beverly) only once, I'll need to eat there again to make sure I'm right. I need to try Tofu Village though =)

Also, my friends wrote "banchan" in Korean for me, so I'm no FOB, now BOB on the other hand....

Dustin: SKD has it. Let's go eat there sometime next week bro!

Matt: You got it. You know you want to join me =P

e d b m said...

KFPanda, I had done a comparison on SKD and BST a few years back. Glad you like SKD – the broth is really hearty and awesome. I sometimes wish the two places would just combine their businesses – that way I can get the crab and silky tofu haha.

Kung Food Panda said...

edbm: I agree with that. There are things I like about Beverly, as I think the ingredient (at least the time I was there) was actually better than SKD. Plus, you're able to get the combos if you want a little meat with your tofu soup.

mi said...

Yep, tried BCD Tofu House on my last trip to NY and it was just meh. Can't wait to try So Kong Dong when I'm in LA! Take care!

clara said...

great review. i try to avoid BCD whenever possible!

btw... do you know what 대니이즈개이이 means? LOL. it's not noo-reung-ji...

Kung Food Panda said...

mi: Hope you liked it!

clara: I take it you figured out what that meant =P? Ya...I got I know what it means...

clara said...

haha yes, i'm korean so i was like hmm... LOL! fyi, the correct way to write noo-reung-ji in korean is 누룽지. :)

i'm taking someone who's never had SDB to dinner this week and i still can't decide between beverly and SKD... i might choose beverly just b/c they have meat combos and it might ease the transition in case he's not a huge fan of the SDB (inconceivable but a possibility nonetheless!).

Kung Food Panda said...

Clara: Thanks for the update, seriously. Felt like an idiot after finding out what I had there before =P

Beverly and SKD are pretty even in my book, so it's hard to go wrong with either. Hope you guys had a good dinner!