My friend Lew and I decided to try Sobban, Korean Southern Diner, since it has been getting rave reviews. This sibling to the fabulous Heirloom Market BBQ, is crammed into the old, abandoned Arby’s on Clairmont Road, just north of the VA Hospital.
From the start, the experience was a delight. The hostess and manager were welcoming and glad to seat meet as soon as a table opened even though Lew was late and had not yet appeared. All in all the food, a fascinating blend of Korean and Southern cuisine (much as Heirloom is BBQ with a Korean bent) was excellent, though a little too heavy for me.
We started with Kimchi Haemul Jun and Our Tofu. The Kimchi dish, pictured above, was a plentiful appetizer of fried fish and seafood over a slightly spicy Kimchi pancake. It was very good but I knew I was in for a very heavy meal. The Tofu appetizer was also good. Our server told us that the Tofu was house-made.
It was fresh and satisfying, indeed, and served with a kimchi, apple miso mousse and soy ginger reduction. While the tofu was fresh and satisfying, and the sauce very tasty with its miso base, it was a bit too heavy for the light (and cold) Tofu, thus adding another needless heaviness to the meal.
For main courses we tried the Spicy Braised Cod and Bibimbop, trying to avoid more fried food and meat. The Cod, which consisted of two perfectly cooked, thick squares of flaky braised fish were accompanied by three equally sized pieces of cooked daikon, an Asian radish, that I had no need for.
The Cod was truly luscious, almost like the Black Cod found at Nobu or Umi. It would have made me happier , though, if there had been three pieces of fish and two pieces of Daikon, although, at $14 it was well priced. The Cod and Daikon were covered by a tasty Korean sweet and soury sauce that shaded towards a light Korean BBQ sauce.
The Bibimbop was a nice bowl of kimchi rice covered with “local greens,” tofu, plenty of shitake mushrooms and a 7 minute egg. The kimchi rice added enough flavor to the entire dish, leaving it the most bland of the evening’s dishes.
For dessert Lew and I shared the Poppingusu, pictured above – a bowl of chocolate tofu ice cream, black pepper red berries and crunchy “pop rocks.” This was a unique dessert that was half tofu ice ream and berries and half breakfast cereal.
All in all, Sobban is very good, but a bit on the heavy side, with a staff doing everything to please.