If ever there was a time for comfort food, that time is now. As Boston’s mood is collectively (and literally) dampened by the snow piles that surround us, cabin fever squirms into the back of our minds like an itch, reviving that longing for a comforting, home-cooked meal. For most of us college students, relief is miles out of reach.
Enter Kaju Tofu House. An oasis of authentic Korean cuisine on the edge of Harvard Square, Kaju treats guests to hot, indulgent bowls of fill-me-up goodness. Offering everything from hearty udon noodles to spicy rice and bibimbap — all in Crockpot proportions — Kaju Tofu House is a richly satisfying remedy for the winter blues.
Kaju offers fare lively enough to break the dining hall routine and excite the palate of intrepid foodies, but too tasty and accessible to offend the less adventurous. It boasts an open and welcoming atmosphere, with round booths that overlook the street. The kitchen envelops visitors in an aromatic cloud so warm and tempting that by the time your party sits down, even the pickiest eater will be ready to dig in.
Don’t be fooled by its title, either; at Kaju “Tofu” House, tofu is more of an accent to a customizable menu of chicken, fish and beef. Everything is served fresh and piping hot. They also offer lunch and dinner combos with an impressively wide swath of options, including sushi, noodles, seafood salads and Korean B.B.Q. This means vegetarians, vegans and meat-lovers alike have more than enough avenues to get their fix.
But the real winner at Kaju is the house’s clay pots, prepared with a choice of veggies ($13.99), beef, chicken, octopus or seafood (all $14.99). The bowls are served steaming hot, sizzling and bubbling as the meat cooks in heavy spices before your eyes (pick mild, medium, spicy or extra spicy for the bold and daring). It arrives at the table thick and silky, filled to the brim with soft tofu. Throw in a free side of crispy rice and an egg to crack over the stew, stir it all together and it’s impossible to go wrong.
If that’s not enough to fill you up — and no doubt, it is, but you’ll want more anyway — Kaju sets out a delicious sampling of traditional Korean mix-ins to nibble on between spoonfuls. The arrangement varies by the day, but it usually includes teeny dishes stacked with kimchi, scallion pancakes, spice-pickled cucumbers, spicy squid, pickled bean sprouts, marinated potatoes and potato salad. Toss them liberally into an entrée, or test each one out before the main course arrives — they’re all refillable and remarkably zesty.
This mix ‘n’ match method is why Kaju is best tackled in groups. Each item on the menu reveals a striking new blend of flavors as you add more ingredients, so the real way to get the most bang for your buck is by sticking your chopsticks into every bowl on the table. At nearly $15 apiece, the soups edge on the pricy side for most college kids. So round up a diverse group of friends and spread the love to make the trip well worth everyone’s while.
There might not be any better cold-weather console than a delicious, steaming dish. And if Dewick’s routine attempts just aren’t doing it for you, don’t underestimate the power of sushi, stew and sake bombs to melt away that ice storm. For some much-needed belly warmth on a budget, Kaju Tofu House hits the spot.
Kaju Tofu House is located at 57 JFK St., Cambridge, Mass., 02138. (617)-864-6868. Open for delivery, takeout and sit-down Monday-Sunday, 11:00 a.m. – 11 p.m.