Take out: yes
Waiter Service: yes
Outdoor seating: no
Food Quality: 3.5 out of 5
Decor: 4 out of 5
Service: 4 out of 5
Overall: 3.83 out of 5
Recommendation: Not as good as JBSD
It is hard to find a good bowl of Soon Dubu here in Taipei. A glimmer of hope sparkled up when I heard Ari Tofu House opened up for business. Supposively, this Korean-Chinese pop star opened up this so he should be able to front some good Soon Dubu, right? Well I guess what might be authentic isn't what I got used to in Southern California. Ari Tofu House offers soon dubu, bibimbap, seafood pancakes, and barbecue items. They also offer combinations with soon dubu and barbecue items, which cost around 440 NT per combination.
The decorations aren't particularly that korean or anything. Seems to be a modern dining space with sturdy tables and tolerable chairs. They are able to accomodate large parties in their restaurant. They have an appropriate amount of waitresses to dote on every table, and I felt that they were there checking up on me throughout the course of the meal. You can see where the 10% service fee comes into play. I did not see anything particularly amazing, but they are above the average korean restaurants in Taiwan.
Whatever you choose to get you will be presented with various appetizers to your table. It has a familiar look, but the formula isn't the same. The fish they use here is more lean and boney than the type they use in America. The fish is bigger, but it was quite hard to pick at the meat, because there were a lot of bones. The Kimchi was not as spicy and flavorful. The cumumbers had the same problem with the kimchi. The bean sprouts were just boiled bean sprouts. The hot sauce seaweed was ok, and the boiled potatoes were just edible. They don't have the spicy clams or the jelly thing, or more flavorful bean sprouts for appetizers. There was not anything amazing.
I appreciate the fact that they serve forbidden rice rather than the usual white rice. You can also ask for white rice, but I like the sweetness and texture of the forbidden rice. It's a plus that they have rice options.
I got the short rib and combination soon dubu set. The short ribs were marinaded with the same sweet and salty mixture and topped the same way, but somehow I felt there was something different about this dish. The meat was not as fresh or tough or something. I think they let it sit in the marinade too long, or they tenderized a piece of old meat way too much. The meat seemed floppy and had no bite to it. The flavors were all there, but the texture was way too soft. My guess is that they use old tenderized meat.
Now, on to the main attraction. The soon dubu in Taiwan seem too be very skim and soupy instead of that sort of semi thick and spicy concoction you can get at BCD in the California. Maybe this is more authentic, i don't really know, but it is not what I am used to for soon dubu. The ingredients they use are really fresh and probably fresher BCD. The oysters, clams, beef chunks, and shrimp were all delicious and fresh. Yet, it does not taste the same. First off, they used the wrong type of shrimp again. Most of the good soon dubu places in Cali use these wierd looking sweet shrimp that don't have much meat on them, but they add this unique flavor to the soon dubu. JBSD and Ari use simple sand shrimp that carry more meat, but lack the strong shrimp flavor the other type of shrimp provides. The spicy paste they use to flavor the soup does not carry the same aroma and spiciness as BCD too. I think the BCD soon dubu seem to be slightly thicker than Ari's, and the spiciness is not just all spicy, but carries a seafood fishy flavor in the soup as well. The soup base they used here did not have that rich seafood flavor along with the thick aromatic spicy paste. In the end, even though some of the ingredients used to make this bowl of soon dubu might have been a lot better than what you can get at a BCD, the soup base failed to match what BCD can offer. And, since a good bowl of soon dubu depends on the soup base to hold everything together...this place is just another "good for Taiwan standards" type of korean restaurant.