So Gong Dong introduces palate-pleasing Korean dishes to Schaumburg

Schaumburg is no slouch when it comes to ethnic restaurants. Diners with a taste for Italian, Greek, Japanese, Thai, Mexican, Indian or Chinese needn't look far to find their favorite cuisine.

So Gong Dong Dubu Tofu & BBQ's recent arrival on the Schaumburg dining scene adds Korean to the mix, allowing consumers to familiarize themselves with or to be reacquainted with some of that region's authentic dishes.

Once you settle into the restaurant's comfortable booth seating, you'll notice the decor is understated but modern. Large, eye-catching food close-ups hang on the walls.

So Gong Dong's menu offers plenty of ingredient choices plus the option to select the level of heat: plain, less spicy, regular, spicy and no-holds-barred spicy.

Unsure about what to order? Don't be shy about asking the knowledgeable staff for suggestions and explanations on how the food is prepared (the kitchen will try to accommodate diners with food allergies). But be patient as things can get lost in translation.

Prices at the family-friendly venue are modest and fall in the range of $10 to $13 at lunch and $14 to $19 at dinner. So Gong Dong doesn't serve alcohol.

No matter, complimentary hot tea worked well to take the edge off the frigid winter temperatures.

A recent meal started with nine half-moon-shaped, lightly fried dumplings stuffed with minced vegetables and pork and served with a mild sweet-and-sour dipping sauce on the side. As an alternative, diners seeking to minimize their fat intake can order their dumplings boiled.

My dining partner and I shared a crisp, flour-based Korean-style seafood pancake stuffed with scallions, shrimp and octopus. The octopus was a bit chewier than expected.

The pork bulgogi bento, a delicious Korean staple, featured thin, tender slices of pork in a mildly seasoned marinade. Small servings in the bento box, available for weekday lunches, included small sushi rolls with cucumber, surimi and a scoop of fried rice, plus sweet corn and two dumplings. All-in-all, it was a palate-pleasing dish — good eating for both adventuresome newbies as well as those familiar with the cuisine.

Because my manual dexterity isn't what it used to be, I traded my chopsticks for a fork. But even that wasn't the full solution to the oversized pieces of pork. I asked my server for a knife in order to reduce the pork to bite-size pieces. With no knives to be had, So Gong Dong responded quickly by providing kitchen shears.

To get the full dining experience, try the kimchi, a traditional fermented Korean side dish made of cabbage with chili seasoning. Seven other side dishes were brought to our table, including fish cake, zucchini, sprouts and a warm soup with noodles, which our server described as “egg soup.”

Given the quantity of food served, leftovers are almost a certainty.

Looking ahead to a return visit, my plan is to sample another traditional entree: soft Korean tofu known as Soondubu Jjigae. Patrons describe it as a spicy, comforting and bubbling bowl of flavorful broth.

Bibimbap is also on my list. This nutritious dish consists of steamed rice and sauteed vegetables (typically spinach, bean sprouts and carrots) served on a traditional Korean hot stone plate. Add-ins include beef, kimchi, pork, seafood, tofu or chicken. And don't forget the Korean barbecue, which includes beef short ribs and chicken galbi.

Though So Gong Dong doesn't offer dessert, the restaurant's attentive service and delicious food will have us returning soon.

Restaurant reviews are based on one anonymous visit. The Daily Herald does not publish reviews of restaurants it cannot recommend.

  Seafood Soondubu Jjigae, a Korean silken tofu dish, comes in three different heat levels at So Gong Dong in Schaumburg. Steve Lundy/
  Pork and minced vegetables fill So Gong Dong's pan-fried dumplings. Steve Lundy/
  The Korean staple pork bulgogi is worth a try at So Gong Dong in Schaumburg. Steve Lundy/
  The crisp, flour-based Korean-style seafood pancake comes stuffed with scallions, shrimp and octopus at Schaumburg's So Gong Dong. Steve Lundy/
  Clean lines and a modern feel welcome diners at So Gong Dong in Schaumburg. Steve Lundy/
  Tofu bibimbap - steamed rice topped with sauteed vegetables on a hot stone plate - is a popular dish at So Gong Dong. Steve Lundy/
  So Gong Dong specializes in Korean barbecue like beef short ribs. Steve Lundy/
  Pork bulgogi is served with traditional Korean side dishes like kimchi, fish cake, zucchini, sprouts and a warm soup with noodles at So Gong Dong Korean in Schaumburg. Steve Lundy/
  Traditional Korean side dishes like zucchini, kimchi, fish cake, sprouts and a warm soup with noodles will sate hungry appetites at Schaumburg's So Gong Dong. Steve Lundy/
  So Gong Dong Korean is tucked into a strip mall in Schaumburg. Steve Lundy/

So Gong Dong Dubu Tofu & BBQ

687 E. Golf Road, Schaumburg, (847) 278-1789, <a href=""></a>

Second location: 1615 N. Milwaukee Ave., Glenview

<b>Cuisine:</b> Korean

<b>Setting:</b> Modern, clean lines

<b>Entrees:</b> Lunch: $10 to $13; dinner: $14 to $19

<b>Hours:</b> 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily; lunch specials available from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday

<b>Also:</b> Reservations accepted; free Wi-Fi

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