Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Cho Dang Tofu House - Buford Hwy near Winters Chapel Rd

You can find Cho Dang Tofu House at 5907 Buford Hwy NE, Doraville, GA 30340, this is on the right headed North of I285 about a block from Winters Chapel Rd. The building is free standing and away from a shopping center behind it. It's a bit difficult to discern as the name in in Korean with "Korean Restaurant" beneath. The sign near the road has "Chodang" written on it but it's can be hard to see. Parking is in the lot out front or spills out to the right. You can come here after you "Treat your feet" across the street...

Cho Dang is my favorite Korean restaurant on Buford Hwy - the flavors are spot-on when compared to what my Korean mother made for our family as I was growing up. The location is a bit dated but still fits into the traditional woody-accented interiors you see in other Korean restaurants of its era. 

The menu is fairly simple with soups, some BBQ items and combinations. The food in general is spicy and the pickled veggies homemade - this latter "panch'an" is updated frequently using seasonal pickled veggies, egg, tofu and fish. There's usually 7 of these (7 cheop). Speaking of fish, you also get a small appetizer fish (I think these are croakers) that's been pan-fried. You tear into this and pick out small pieces of meat - it's quite a treat.

For larger groups I frequently order a kimchi pancake or my favorite, a pepper pancake. This 12 inch pancake features ground beef, onions and peppers, including hot jalapenos and is served with a Korean style ponzu sauce (tastes like soy, mirin, a drop of sesame oil and some green onion - once again just like what mom used to make). My friends call this a Korean pizza and it is indeed served cut into slices like one. It's also delicious if a bit on the oily side - it is pan fried.

The specialty of the house are the various types of tofu soup. This style of cooking is called soondubu jigae - soups, stews and broths served with soft tofu in blazing hot crocks. This comes to the table bubbling and steaming and usually it's served with "purple rice" - rice cooked with beans in a similar crock. You spoon rice into a metal bowl and add the soup and pickles, a little at a time until you're full. I cheat and eat directly out of the rice crock (but that's not considered good form) - I also eat every bit I'm served which makes me a bit of a pig, but I love this food so I'm honest about my gluttony.

Notice that you also get an egg with this - up to you if you want to add the egg but you should do so while the soup is still bubbling - it cooks into the broth and provides an extra layer of creamy deliciousness.

If I'm very hungry, I'll splurge on one of the combos - like the BBQ ribs (galbi) and tofu soup (my favorite is the kimchi beef tofu soup, extra spicy - they know to double up on the heat for me and I do indeed fell it - nothing like those endorphins kicking in to let me know how good this is). The beef is wonderful and the soup top-notch with tons of Tofu (a bit different from the Kimchee Jige you usually order in a typical Korean restaurant).

Traditionally you keep the rice "clean" so you can pour in some of the hyeonmi cha (this is the hot brown rice tea they serve you in a glass) or some water. Mixed with the crunchy rice that's caramelized in the crock, produces a new flavor and texture combination that's nice to finish off the meal and clean the palate a bit. Or you can take advantage of the free soft-serve ice cream dispenser or very-sweet coffee dispenser near the door.

I like the bugogi (shaved marinated beef) and galbi (short ribs) here quite a bit - I also occasionally get something else as the mood strikes me, like the stone bowl bibimbap. You can also ask for some gochuchung (fermented hot paste) if things aren't tasty enough for you, but as long as you get the soup extra spicy you should be fine.

There are always tons of Koreans, Americans and other ethnic types there - it seems quite popular. Also the staff is very knowledgeable and friendly, available for a description of the menu items or two plus they readily fill water and tea glasses. Some of my friends prefer other Korean restaurants but even when I try others I always come back to Cho Dang - it simply has all the right flavors for me, has great portion sizes and is very reasonable. You should try it or even better, reach out to me and I'll meet you there - I need little excuse to visit.

-- John

(slightly shorter review also posted on Yelp)
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