Review: Fresh tofu is the star at Duluth’s Dubu Gongbang

Dubu Gongbang, one of the newer restaurants to join Duluth’s flourishing Asian dining scene, is dedicated to tofu, which is called dubu in Korean.

The name refers to the South Korean “gongbang” phenomenon, in which people stream video of themselves studying for hours. Gongbang means “study show,” and the underlying idea is to learn by watching. Dubu Gongbang takes its name literally, with a large screen showing its tofu process.

All tofu served in the restaurant is made fresh daily, and nearly every dish on the menu includes slabs or hunks of the stuff.

Spicy stir-fried squid comes with firm tofu at Dubu Gongbang. Henri Hollis/

Credit: Henri Hollis

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Credit: Henri Hollis

Although it’s located in a strip mall, the interior of the restaurant is beautiful, in a stark way. The ceiling soars, while the modern concrete walls are softened by a large tree in the center of the dining room. A large projector screen on one side showed looping video of Korean vacation destinations.

Dubu Gongbang certainly caters to Koreans first, so if you don’t speak the language, you can expect a few difficulties communicating. However, the atmosphere was welcoming and the servers were friendly, efficient and eager to answer questions. Forks were available upon request, but it’s worth noting that chopsticks and spoons are in drawers hidden beneath each table.

You can get a kimchi pancake with squid at Dubu Gongbang. Henri Hollis/

Credit: Henri Hollis

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Credit: Henri Hollis

The star of the show, the tofu, was excellent, with a firm but silky texture and a clean flavor that lends itself well to the many exciting applications. The freshly pressed, firm sesame tofu included a marble-like vein of black sesame running along one side.

A large portion of Dubu Gongbang’s menu is taken up by soon dubu, or unpressed, soft tofu stew. These stews feature the freshest, softest tofu curds, ladled straight from the vat. The restaurant’s kimchi soon dubu with a raw egg was spicy and rich. It was served with a small pot of white rice on the side. While plain soon dubu is available, the egg gave the bowl an extra-velvety texture, and excellent kimchi added crunch, acid and heat.

Still, I could see myself craving one of the more genteel bowls of soon dubu next time I come down with a cold.

Quite a few dishes at Dubu Gongbang turned out to be very spicy by American standards, so don’t expect blandness at this tofu house. The main dishes are seriously flavorful, and the firm dubu with spicy stir-fried squid was a favorite. Like nearly every dish, the stir-fry was served on a screaming-hot cast-iron platter with a generous portion of squid in a visibly peppery sauce. It’ll make your scalp sweat, but I couldn’t stop eating it.

Kimchi soon dubu is spicy and rich, and is served with a small pot of white rice on the side at Dubu Gongbang. Henri Hollis/

Credit: Henri Hollis

icon to expand image

Credit: Henri Hollis

The pork barbecue was another excellent main dish, perfectly achieving that balance of sweet, salty and umami that Korean cuisine does so well. Some dishes are served with another delight: stone bowl rice in another dangerously hot vessel; the bottom and sides of the rice actually get crispy.

Each meal comes with a selection of traditional Korean banchan, including kimchi, pickled shishito peppers, a Sriracha-like sauce, cabbage leaves and other goodies. Also, every meal begins with a carafe of hot tea.

Speaking of drinks, water and bottled sodas are available, but the alcohol is strictly Korean. There are quite a few selections of Jinro (also known as Korean vodka) in a variety of flavors. There’s one brand of makgeolli, a slightly effervescent, unfiltered rice wine. It was light on the palate but delightfully tart and sweet. Two Korean beers are offered, Kloud and Terra — a pilsner and lager, respectively.

Based on the buzzing crowds at Dubu Gongbang, the restaurant already is a hit with the Korean community. For American diners, it’s a bit of an adventure, but the food is excellent and it’s hard to imagine finding better tofu elsewhere. Anyone looking for an attractive, modern restaurant where they can try something new will be rewarded richly by a visit to Dubu Gongbang.


2 out of 4 stars (very good)

Food: Korean

Service: efficient and friendly, with occasional communication issues for those who don’t speak Korean

Noise level: moderate

Recommended dishes: spicy soon dubu, kimchi soon dubu, buckwheat wraps, kimchi pancake with squid, pork barbecue, dubu with stir-fried spicy squid

Vegetarian dishes: plain soon dubu, spicy soon dubu, perilla seed soon dubu, kimchi soon dubu, plain pureed soy stew, kimchi pureed soy stew, dubu kimchi, seared dubu in perilla oil

Alcohol: selection of Korean beer, makgeolli and Jinro

Price range: $75 or less per person, not including drinks

Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays (kitchen closes at 8:30 p.m.); 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays (last order at 9:30 p.m.)

Accessibility: ADA-compliant, with large, open space and easy-to-move tables

Parking: free lot


Reservations: no

Outdoor dining: no

Takeout: yes, phone orders only

Address, phone: 2180 Pleasant Hill Road, Duluth. 470-299-5776


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s dining critics conduct reviews anonymously. Reservations are not made in their name, nor do they provide restaurants with advance notice about their visits. Our critics always make multiple visits, sample the full range of the menu and pay for all of their meals. AJC dining critics wait at least one month after a new restaurant has opened before visiting.

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