Myung-Ga Tofu House & Korean BBQ
1839 W. 3500 South, West Valley City ; 801-908-0124
Delicious soft tofu soups and barbecued meat dishes at this friendly, no-nonsense Korean restaurant.
Cuisine: Korean, Barbecue
Hours: M-Th, 9:30 a.m.-10 p.m.; F-S, 9:30 a.m.-10 p.m.
Recommended Dishes: Soft tofu soups, short-rib combination, clam soup,dumpling with rice cake soup.
August 16, 2006
Velvety tofu, fiery barbecue at Myung-Ga
By Lesli J. Neilson
West Valley City -- Korean is not a cuisine with which I am very familiar, so I was eager to try out a reader's recommendation of Myung-Ga Tofu House and Korean BBQ.
The restaurant, on the corner of a strip mall, is simply decorated with neutral floor tiling, walls that are half putty brown, half Korean characters and boxy beige paper lanterns hanging from the ceiling. Banquettes line two walls and yellow embroidered tablecloths covered with plastic top each table.
Service is prompt, efficient and congenial.
The five-paneled menu devotes an entire page to "soft tofu" -— a selection of soups that contain silken tofu. The rest of the menu is made up of combinations and specials.
Regardless of what you order, you'll receive six types of banchan — condiments to accompany your meal. The banchan at Myung-Ga consist of tender-crisp broccoli with a hint of sesame oil, mild kimchi (cabbage and spices that have been lightly fermented), semi-kicky marinated cucumbers, blanched garlicky soybeans, sheets of delicious roasted and salted seaweed, and cubes of sweetened sweet potatoes. Your spoon is intended for the soup and rice, the chopsticks for everything else.
Korean food is not one that lends itself to takeout. It also makes a flashy entrance: Soup bubbles in stone caldrons; barbecued meat dishes sizzle on cast-iron platters; cold, long noodles come with their own scissors; even white rice comes in its own hot pot. After you place your order, you can't help but get a little giddy in anticipation of your meal to come.
There are five combination offerings -- barbecued beef, chicken, pork and short ribs ($13.95-$14.95). Each could happily feed a small army and comes with the combination soft tofu soup, which can be ordered clear (beef broth), mild, medium, spicy or extra spicy.
Thin, oval bones were attached to each garlicky, tender short rib and made it easy to snatch up with chopsticks and nibble the meat from the bone, while the pork were crunchy barbecued curlicues. Hissing under each protein were tangles of caramelizing onions that were delicious on their own and even better when added to the soup -- maybe it wasn't the thing to do but I was winging it on a maiden visit. Following a seasoned eater's lead, on a second visit I ordered a plate of chilled romaine leaves ($1.50) and made crispy little wraps out of rice, meat, onions and banchan.
My crimson-flecked soup with medium heat was full of opened manila clams in their shell, shrimp (also in its shell; what the heck, I ate the entire thing and it was good), beef, mushrooms and silken tofu. I found out when it was almost too late that the whole raw egg presented with my order was meant to be cracked into my bubbling soup. Ask for hot sauce — gochujang — if you'd like your soup spicier.
On an imminent blustery day, I could easily see myself craving my dining companion's ramen soft tofu ($8.50) with egg ramen noodles, beef, mushrooms and whole raw egg.
If you opt for soup on its own, you can order plain white rice in a hot stone — with those desirable toothsome outer bits ($2.50), plain white rice ($1.50) or beef broth soft tofu for kids ($1.50).
Dumpling with rice cake soup ($8.50), from the special section, was an intriguing dish, with five plump pork and green onion-filled dumplings floating in a white sesame seed-flecked beef broth. Rice cake coins—steamed—or boiled rice powder—add texture and interest to the dish.
Rice with "assorted mixtures" in a hot stone pot ($9.50) sounded mysterious but it was comprised of white rice (crispy and browned at the bowl's edge), spinach, an over-easy egg, mushrooms, zucchini, carrot and a Korean white vegetable similar in texture to cooked celery root (our server didn't know its name in English). A couple of squirts of gochujang and the dish sung.
Stir-fried clear noodles with vegetables and beef ($8.99) was the only dish that seemed lacking. Onions, spinach, mushrooms and beef were quickly sautéed with clear vermicelli noodles. Other than smoky notes, there wasn't much else going on. It was the anomaly among the otherwise assertive flavors of the dishes we ate.
And though my knowledge of Korean food is limited, the number of Korean-speaking patrons dining on my two visits reinforced my positive opinion about the restaurant. Next time I head to Myung-Ga I plan on ordering the cold vermicelli noodles and trying my hand with those flashy scissors.
Tribune's rating system
1 star Good
2 stars Very good
3 stars Excellent
4 stars Extraordinary
$ Entree under $10
$$$$ Above $25
1 bell Quiet (under 65 decibles)
2 bells Can talk easily (65-70)
3 bells Talking somewhat difficult (70-75)
4 bells Raised voices (75-80)
A bomb Too noisy for normal conversation (80+)
The Tribune covers the cost of all meals at reviewed restaurants. Star ratings are based on a minimum of two visits. Ratings are updated continually based on at least one revisit. There is no connection between reviews and advertising.