Geez quite a mouthful, huh? Well, the reason for the multiple names is that all the sign says in English is "Korean BBQ & Tofu". In Korean, the name of the place is Hal Mu Ni Soon Tofu..... which leads to the translation.... "할머니" is Grandma in Korean, thus Grandma's Soon Tofu. At least that's what my dining companion MrS told me......
One thing is for certain..... this used to be the Rice King on Convoy. A couple of weeks ago I noticed that it had changed ownership, and identity. Mentioning this to MrS, I was told that the former Owner of Arirang, the one who is well known for her panchan, son runs the place. My first response was "doesn't he own Jeong Won?" MrS replied, "no it's her other son.... oh, and by the way, the son who used to run Jeong Won doesn't any longer. He got divorced and his wife got the restaurant." Which kinda explains why my last visit to the place was pretty bad overall. All of which led us to the place last evening.......
Man was the restaurant packed! It sure seemed like everyone was checking the new place out. The interior still shows it's former fast-food bones, as the tables and seats have been kept the same. And the former steam table is still displayed prominently.
The next interesting item; even though the place has Soon Tofu and Korean BBQ in it's name, neither is really the specialty of the house. The soondae guk is tempting at 2 for $9.99. MrS told me that Soondae, Korean blood sausage is made inhouse, and that we should order that. Let me be very clear that my experiences with Soondae in San Diego have been, well, terrible. The worst Soondae I attempted to eat was so bad, that I brought it home, and tried to give it to Sammy & Frankie, and they wouldn't even touch it! You know it's bad sausage when your mutts reject it......
There were a bunch of items that interested me, and we eventually came to a compromise. After placing our order, the panchan arrived.
The portions were generous, but I was disappointed in the Baechu Kimchi.... the basic Napa Cabbage Kimchi which was missing the level of savory flavor hidden below the spice that I enjoy.
As you can see with the slices of jalapeno and garlic..... I wanted the Gul or Jokbal Bossam..... Mr S found a way to get both, along with Soondae as a "combination bossam" ($21.99):
My goodness, this was a lot of food.... there seemed to be half a head of napa cabbage, along with the soondae, gul (steamed pork), and jokbal (pork hock).
The steamed pork was not as tender as the version at Chon Ju Jip, but had better flavor. Here the raw oysters and radish kimchi garnish was mixed, and served in a pretty large bowl:
This was excellent, spicy and savory, but still refreshing. Good heat level, the radish and oysters together made for a wonderful "Ying-Yang" in textures, and when combined in a cabbage leaf with soy bean paste, garlic, some chili sauce, along with the pork of your choice, it was heavenly. Heck, I could have possibly even done without the pork.... possibly.
The pork hock was a nice combination of skin and gelatin, chewy and substantial. The bones made for some good gelatin gnawing......
What about the Soondae? Well, it was better than I've had in a while. Perhaps still a bit too mushy, and I'd prefer a more firm casing, but the sausage had a nice nuttiness to it. A dip in salt added a bit to the flavor.
Mr S wasn't through, he had also ordered the Galchi Jorim (갈치조림 - basically simmered Beltfish).
I may not have been a big fan of the overly bony Beltfish, but I thought the sauce was fantastic. Tangy, spicy, with a nice "umami" flavor hanging around in the background.... I loved just having the sauce on rice! I later found out that the Missus grew up eating Beltfish, and loves the stuff, so I may be having this again soon.
Overall, Mr S, our dining companion "U Lee", and I had a very satisfying meal..... made more enjoyable for U Lee and I was the fact the MrS doesn't eat pork hock.....
Some notes: The place was quite busy, probably since the Owner's Mother is pretty well known inthe Korean community in San Diego. Seating is pretty limited, ambiance can appropriately be called "remade fast-food". On our visit, I was the only person not of Korean heritage in the place. Service was efficient and businesslike, and we were offered refills of our panchan. The "grand opening" banner says Soondubu 2 for $9.99. My first impression is that the food is a notch above Chon Ju Jip.
Hal Mu Ni Soon Dubu
4425 Convoy St. #217
San Diego, CA 92111
*** You can find a post with even more dishes here.