With it being in the mid-80's and sunny today, I thought to myself, "How about a big bowl of boiling spicy tofu soup?" So, I went to Tofu House in Santa Clara. I was greeted by the jolly host--who plays uncle to everyone young and old--who thanked me for coming back. He's got a good memory; it's been at least six months since I've eaten there.
Upon entering I was struck by the fact that the legs of all the chairs were fitted with ripped tennis balls to ensure they didn't scratch the new wood flooring. They should have used adhesive pads, which work just as well for that purpose. My purpose today was to eat sundubu, but still, the rows and rows of tennis balls were unsightly in a restaurant.
I ordered my standby, which was the "Original Soft Tofu" with beef. I got it "hot" (the spiciest of the four levels offered). It came with six kimchi dishes. They were mostly pedestrian--and mostly cabbage in one form or another--but the variety wasn't bad for lunch. Lunch took a little longer than expected, which was a surprise, since I came in just after 1:00 and the restaurant wasn't crowded. A server even apologized for the wait, which, as it turned out, was worth it. When it arrived, the bubbling pot splattered soup all over my side of the table (remember to get your napkin up if you want to protect that shirt of yours!). The dish came with a raw egg, which I cracked while the soup was still boiling.
I have a weakness for so-hot-it-will-scald-your-palate-off soup of just about any kind. Moreover, Tofu House uses a wild sweet rice that went superbly with the hot tofu soup, which in addition to the beef also came with green onions and mushrooms. One may think, as I did, that the rice comes with a purple bean, but that's actually the bran. The combination of the soup temperature, the spiciness and the fact the restaurant decided to open their door to let in the heat left my face and shirt drenched.
Although the quality of the sundubu met my expectations, I did end up leaving with a slightly bad taste in my mouth. They never refilled my glass of water, which would have been easy considering the restaurant was nearly empty at the time. I was asked if I wanted more kimchi and I said yes. However, they never followed up. When I paid my bill with cash, the kindly uncle didn't ring it up, which telegraphed to me that the tax they charged me would go straight to the restaurant. Add to all of that that lunch took a long time--nearly twenty minutes--to be served and I couldn't give the kind of tip I usually do (though I can't blame the server for the tax issue), but still more than Rachael Ray or Tiger (use your favorite search engine to look up "Tiger Woods" and "tipper").
SGD Tofu House
3450 El Camino Real
Santa Clara, CA 95051