SBCD Korean Tofu House: Did it hit the mark for Sundubu-jjigae (tofu stew) lovers?

SBCD Korean Tofu House: Did it hit the mark for Sundubu-jjigae (tofu stew) lovers?

It was a lovely, humid Saturday late morning. After the Covid-19 regulations relaxed a little to allow dine-ins, 3 friends and I decided to head down to the SBCD Korean Tofu House (Millenia Walk branch), to catch up over an alluring bowl of sundubu-jjigae (Korean Tofu stew / 순두부찌개) we heard visitors of this restaurant rave about so much. 

Expecting it to be full house, we had a prior booking for 11.30am and waited to be shown to our table, hungry and ready to get down with a spicy, smooth hearty bowl of the stew. Needless to explain, readers of this blog know how much I emphasise on customer service to set the mood for the whole dining experience. 

I'll cut to the chase - service sucked. 

When we arrived, we were served by a fiery lady, who snapped like a turtle at 2 young boys at the counter. She then told us that she had another table coming in at 12.15pm, and asked us if we could finish by then. She then told us we would have to leave within 1.5hours of our booking. It was an extremely puzzling thing to tell us about the 12.15pm table, especially when we've booked ourselves for 11.30am, which would set us to leave by 1pm.

We were shown to our table, and within 5 mins, we were ready to order. However, even as the whole restaurant didn't visually make up 10% of its dine-in capacity yet, there was no one to tend to us for a considerable amount of time. My friend who suggested the place then swore that this was definitely unlike the swift and delicious experience she had when she visited the Tanjong Pagar branch. Boo. 

This made me anxious as we were told we had to leave within 1.5 hours. I got up to call the waiter over to take my order, to which the digital order boards they were using had issues. By the time we got served our side dishes (and plain water which we ordered when we first stepped in), we were almost 30 minutes into the whole session.

Though our stomach juices were churning and tummies growling, I still assure you I can keep an overall pretty objective mind when I'm tasting my food. 

We were served with a couple of banchan (Korean side dishes), and every stew order also came a deep fried yellow croaker fish (조기). As I was really hungry, I tried that first. You know how whenever you're hungry and you taste food, the flavours would be elevated? Well, if what I'm tasting on this fish are the elevated flavours, then this croaker was not impressive at all. FYI - It's also filled with many little, fine bones, so if you're dining there with a young one, a warning that this might be a dish you may not want to have your kid try. 

As a group of 4 who loves Korean food and had the real deal from traditional sundubu houses in Korea - I can tell you I know what a good tofu stew should taste like. It needs the robust and flavorful combination of meat, contrasting with the smoothness of the extra soft tofu brick, sometimes served with a good gooey beautiful yellow yolk cracked just before serving, so that the yolk peeks through the sea of redness floating above the bubbling stew. Pair that with a piping hot bowl of short grain white rice and it'll be 100% stew heaven.

We each ordered a standard spice sundubu-jjigae, and some sides - LA galbi, bulgogi and fried dumplings (mandu) to share. 

Let's talk sides first. 

The mandu was lovely. Crispy skin, flavourful fillings and cooked to golden brown perfection.

The LA Galbi (Korean BBQ short ribs) however, also one of the most expensive dish item on the menu, can be totally skipped. Served on a hotplate, the LA Galbi was not only extremely greasy, but very tough to bite through. We had to hold the bone using our fingers, and tear away on the flesh using pure teeth strength. 

It's a hard pass for me. Not to mention the grease that smears over your lips, which we can all do without in front of our potential dates. 

Well, dodge the calorie bomb there too, ladies. You won't miss much.

The bulgogi (Korean grilled beef) wasn't very impressive either. The marinated beef had not made the flavour mark, as the marinade didn't seem to have penetrated the meat too well. Pretty sure the marinate timing was not enough. Also, that juiciness of the beef for bulgogi did not come through. 

A shame as it would have done so well to serve as a lovely sharing side with the stew. 

Now, on to the stew, the linchpin of SBCD Korean Tofu House. 

Served piping hot and burying all its ingredients under the blanket of gorgeous red, I carefully dig into the stew with my Korean spoon to fish up the treasure that lies beneath. The beef slices surface, well coated with the robust red. Beautiful. 

I dig the spoon in another time, did a lift and a huge slab of soft tofu emerges. Absolutely what I wanted, visually, it was gorgeous. How about the taste? 

Their stew uses pork and vegetables as the soup base. I take a sip of the soup, careful not to burn my tongue. Wait a second - was it just me? 

Somehow the flavours, again like the bulgogi, did not burst in my mouth. Where is the robust taste that I saw visually? I needed to taste that on my palate, too. For a $22 bowl of sundubu, you'd better deliver that taste explosion in the mouth. 

I took a 2nd sip, a larger sip this time. Soup alone was lacking in flavour. A pity. I take a bite off the ingredients in the bowl - beef, then tofu, then beef. Despite the mild disappointment in the overall flavour - I got used to the taste, and finished up the entire bowl. To be fair, it wasn't bad at all. It was a reasonable bowl of sundubu. But was it exceptional? No.

For a bowl of stew that cost so much - I was definitely expecting more. 

Will I return? 

Well, honestly - I don't know. If I were ever in the area and craved a stew so badly, I probably would. But I don't think I would travel the distance for this bowl of soup. But perhaps, it's just me.

If you do visit, let me know what you think as well. And don't forget to get yourself a mini yakult drink, a sweet treat to finish up the meal. 

After all, it's free.

xoxo, Janel

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