Drive to Buford Highway or farther north to the Duluth-Suwanee corridor, and you’ll find a world of Korean restaurants. But along the eastern corridor of Cobb County, just off I-75, there sits Tofu Village, a lonely little outpost of Korean dining sharing space with a liquor and cigar store in a drab strip mall.
But inside, the setting resembles a restaurant one might find in rural South Korea. On the fringes are shiny metallic barbecue tables, and a flat-screen television is positioned front and center, broadcasting KBS, a Korean channel. With no alternative Korean restaurant nearby, it seems that Tofu Village could easily rest on its laurels. But it is pumping out some of the most consistent Korean food in metro Atlanta.
Just as the name suggests, stripped down orders of house-made tofu steamed (yang nyum tofu, $7.99) or lightly seared (tofu gue ee, $7.99) can be ordered as appetizers served with nothing but a low-sodium soy dipping sauce on the side. Of the two, I prefer the thick, rectangular version seared in vegetable oil until crispy on the outside. It tantalizes with its slight fermented flavor, resembling a very mild cheese.
The restaurant also impresses with its house-made myeon (noodles). After my dining companion received a serving of ja jang myeon ($9.99), chewy wheat noodles coated in a salty black bean gravy, I didn’t hear a peep from him until every last speck of pork and sliver of vegetable in the dish were picked off by the fine points of his chopsticks. Slippery, translucent myeon come in the kitchen’s fiery yukgaejang soup ($11.99). The spicy beef brisket and vegetable soup is smoky from reconstituted shiitakes, and the beef flavor is deepened by a broth prepared by boiling cow bones for 24 hours. It is the best version of yukgaejang I have ever had.
The restaurant’s smaller plates of banchan (complimentary seasonal side items customarily served alongside regular orders) are consistently high quality. Cool threads of bean sprout namul (seasoned vegetable dish), flavored lightly with sesame oil and salt, pop with crunch. Variations of pickled red pepper cabbage or squares of radish kimchi are fermented to a fun level of sprightliness, causing my mouth to pucker just a bit.
One table at Tofu Village is outfitted for samgyeopsal dining (pork belly, $17.99). A massive cast-iron dome coated in a sheen of cooking oil is placed above a recessed gas burner on the table and acts as the centerpiece. Minutes later, long fatty strips of raw pork belly begin to curl and sizzle right before your eyes. Fresh baskets of ssam (lettuce wraps), oily rice wrap sheets and ssam jang (fermented soy bean paste for dipping) are all placed before you and used for wrapping bite-size pieces of the bacon. My only complaint is the three small strips of pork seem to be a meager amount for the lofty price.
Tofu Village may be isolated from other Korean restaurants, or any restaurant in the immediate vicinity for that matter, but it refuses to compromise in quality and authenticity. It remains one of metro Atlanta’s best options for Korean dining.TOFU VILLAGE 700 Sandy Plains Road, Suite B-1, Marietta. 770-426-7757 Food: Traditional Korean food, including barbecue, noodles and a variety of stews. Service: attentive, well-spoken and knowledgeable Credit cards: Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Mondays-Sundays Best dishes: yukgaejang (spicy beef and vegetable soup), ja jang myeon (black bean noodles), dolsot bibimbap (hot bowl rice dish) Vegetarian selections: a variety of vegetable appetizers, steamed or fried tofu, vegetable-based soups and soy noodles Children: yes Parking: in lot Reservations: yes Wheelchair access: yes Smoking: no Noise level: low Patio: yes Takeout: yes