Kid Hit Menu Items: Soft soon tofu whisked around a restaurant in boiling stone cauldrons has its obvious drawbacks. Flavor and texture, however, are not among them. We have to go the completely plain spice route at BCD Tofu House because of our kids’ annoying spice-phobias; not an issue for the many other diners under the age of 10 I’ve seen scooping up spoonfuls of red-hued soft tofu combined with a variety of proteins, or other add-ins like kimchee, mushrooms or dumplings. When in any Korean restaurant, our kids are bulgogi guys all the way, even if it’s probably better to stick to the specialty at a place that’s built an international brand out of overtly naming itself for a specific ingredient. Anyway, pulled off the sizzling platter, cooled a bit and eaten straight, or mixed into rice — served any way, they’re psyched to eat slivers of Korean BBQ beef. The whole fried fishy fish doesn’t go to waste with our older one, otherwise the banchan selection is somewhat limited. Tofu at BCD doesn’t have to only mean burn-the-crap-out-of-your-mouth temperatures, since the kitchen makes a glass noodle and a tofu salad with sesame dressing.
Adult Perks: Soon tofu and entrée combinations are a smart deal for under $20, and can easily be split among family members. I always like a Hite to go with the meal; hardly the finest of beers and far from the craft beer revolution we’re living through now, but its light flavor works in context.
Pros: Because BCD is going after a chunk of market share, the non-tofu-purist menu helps our situation. There’s the aforementioned bulgogi, and chicken teriyaki if it comes to that. Plus plenty of theatrics, what with the paleolithic looking pots and food getting transfered to various receptacles and art and TVs. I won’t get a Parent of the Year award for this, but the boys were enthralled by the looping edu-tainment videos about tofu, stone pot rice, and soon tofu, which is now all organic at BCD. The chain runs a tight ship, and the longest part of the meal will be waiting for the food to cool. Everything else will be a breeze. Upshot: when a younger member of our group shouts, “I LOVE this restaurant!,” which happened during our last dinner there AND all the adults are happy, you’re hired, BCD.
Cons: There’s an obvious element of danger. But c’mon, live on the edge a little. Oh, and remember, those whole eggs put on the table to stir into the soon tofu are raw!
Changing Station: Yes
High Chairs: Yes
Parking and Access: Big surface lot accessed via Wilshire or across from the mighty St. Basil’s at Kingsley.
Other Tidbits: Alright, I know Beverly Soon Tofu is the preferred place of many tofu fans, and the Fresses‘ daughter even picked it as her birthday meal. The wood benches at Beverly are pretty cool, too. But when it comes to a practical spot for kids and big groups, it’s tough to beat BCD on Wilshire. After all, the cavernous space was formerly the Copper Penny family restaurant for decades. BCD’s Western Ave. location is also perfectly fine too, just not as large, and less deluxe since the recent Wilshire makeover — and I often would rather go to Ma Dang Gook Soo a couple doors down anyway. Add this BCD location to the list of restaurants applying a fresh stylish overlay to stand alone midcentury family restaurants and vernacular coffee shops (A-Frame, Pitfire Pizza, the Oinkster, etc.). Now there’s edgy art that uses striking, preserved natural materials on the walls, plus tofu making equipment in plexiglass display cases, and those enthralling videos on the flatscreens. Maybe not good for encouraging conversation at the table, but effective at keeping hands away from piles of steaming stone pots, while they happily eat from indestructible steel bowls.
3575 Wilshire Blvd., Koreatown + many more
Hours: 24 friggin’ hours, party people!