One of the things I missed most about America while I was away in Asia was attending rock shows. Sure, I saw some homegrown Saigon death metal and even My Chemical Romance, but none of my favorites ever came to rock the Mekong. This certainly is not the case in Los Angeles. In fact, so many sweet acts come to town that we have to pick and choose which ones to see based on monetary and scheduling constraints.
Ben Folds is The Astronomer’s all-time favorite musician—the Billy Joel of our generation, if you will. When we found out that he was coming to town and playing a show at the Wiltern Theatre, we knew we had to be there. Granted, we’ve already seen him twice, but Ben in concert is a magical experience that’s not to be missed.
I work a stone’s throw away from the Wiltern, so we stayed in Koreatown for dinner. Tofu Village is conveniently located across the street from the venue.
Tofu Village is known for their generous banchan. On this evening, we were served eleven different ones! My favorites of the bunch were the purple potato salad, jap chae, salty fish with chili sauce, and fried tofu with eggs. I especially loved the chewy little silverfish and ate them straight-up. Banchan are my favorite aspect of Korean meals because they bring about a feeling of adorable abundance.
Tofu Village specializes in soft tofu stew or soondubu jjigae. We ordered a seafood medley filled with clams, shrimp and lots of silken tofu. The stew arrived bubbling like mad in a clay pot, and our waiter cracked a raw quail egg into it upon arrival. Purple rice was served on the side. Since this was our first time venturing into soondubu jigae territory, we received a bit of instruction from our waiter—take a heap of rice, dip it into the stew, put it in your mouth, then repeat.
After the stew cooled down, we could actually taste the broth, which was flavorful, but not the least bit spicy. The waiter probably sensed we were newbies and prepared the stew mild even though we requested medium heat. Next time we’ll ask for a bolder rendition.
For our second dish, we tried the galbi jjim, which was translated as a “beef rib stew” on the menu. This dish was served with sticky rice and fish sauce on the side. The soup contained generous and tender hunks of beef ribs, glass noodles, scallions and dried plums. We incorporated the rice into the soup per our waiter’s instructions, which reminded me of the Vietnamese canh dishes I grew up with. Prior to exploring Koreatown, I associated Korean cuisine with brash, in-your-face spiciness. The galbi jjim highlights a more subtle side of Korean food.
After we polished off our two stews and paid our bill, we headed across the street to rock out.
Ben played a two and a half hour set, which pleased us to no end. The first half of the show was dedicated to new material, while the second half was dominated by the songs we knew by heart. For a nerdy man with a strangely elongated torso, Ben Folds rocks the party.
3807 Wilshire Blvd. #120
Los Angeles, CA 90189