I can't help but think that It's Tofu has kind of an unfortunate name.
I mean, despite its wider use in all sorts of dishes these days, tofu still has an exotic, health-food vibe for many people — or, in the case of my husband, a "non-meat and therefore not very interesting to eat" vibe.
The problem is, a name like "It's Tofu Plus A Lot of Other Korean- and Asian-Inspired Dishes That May Also Include Meat" is a little too long. That's what you'll find at It's Tofu, however, and I was impressed with the quality, cleanliness and service of this Cottonwood Heights restaurant.
My friend Kay and I took a couple of our kids to It's Tofu for lunch on a recent weekday. I felt a little worried as we stepped inside. This place has a modern feel, with lots of dark wood, mirrors and subdued lighting, but it also feels a little upscale or, in other words, a little too fancy for kids.
That's not true, though. The staff welcomed us — and the toddler and baby with us — with big smiles and placed us at a comfortable table with a partition, so we'd have a little space to ourselves.
To start, we tried the zucchini and red bell pepper jun, or crispy flour pancake. Think a tortilla mixed with a frittata and filled with juicy, crisp-tender vegetables, and you get the idea. It was served with a great, tangy, potsticker-style dipping sauce.
We got a bunch of other food to share, starting with the japchae with shrimp. Japchae is clear Korean vermicelli with vegetables — in this case, onions, spinach and carrots — and a subtle, light and savory sauce that showed off the veggies' fresh flavors. It was topped with sweet grilled shrimp with a delicate, flavorful char.
We also tried the short rib and tofu stew combo, a huge meal that probably could have satisfied all of us without the japchae (though I'm glad we had that!). It started with a plate of intensely flavored and beautifully seasoned short ribs, and also included a delicious hot pot of tofu stew, clouds of silken tofu in a spicy, tangy broth.
We had the kimchi and pork variety, which I've never tried before, and I enjoyed the lean meat, tender sliced onion and tang of kimchi very much. This is one of those soups that require that you scoop to the very bottom to get the full range of flavors, and it's kind of a fun excavation experience. We also had it with a fresh egg cracked in just before serving, which adds extra richness and depth of flavor.
With the combo meal were dishes of all of those great little Korean pickled and marinated side items, from kimchi to cool and mellow potatoes, plus a pot of creamy sticky rice.
For folks who aren't sure about trying Korean flavors, the menu also includes beef teriyaki, salad and various Korean barbecue items, a good way to introduce oneself to the cuisine.
But, on the other hand, maybe you should give the tofu a try. Trust me, you won't have it much better than it's handled here. After all, they're staking their name on it!
Appetizers and dumplings $5.75-$9.75, entrees $7.75-$14.75, tea $2.50-$3.75.
Where: 6949 S. 1300 East, Cottonwood Heights
Hours: 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday
Payment: Major credit cards accepted
Wheelchair access: Easy
Also: On the Web at www.itstofu.com