Review: Mandu, Dupont Circle
Not a typical “lobbyist” haunt, Mandu provides simple, pure, and very delicious Korean food in a no frills environment. With two locations in DC, Dupont Circle (18th Street) or closer to the Hill/Chinatown off 5th and K St NW, Mandu is great for a filling meal, relaxing with friends, or getting absolutely hammered on Korean vodka called “Soju.” If you’re not too loud, only use your metal chop sticks as drum sticks once, and never use them to stab your dining companions; you can sit back, get your fill of amazing food, pound Soju until things get blurry, then ditch the coat and tie, stumble to Dupont or Adams Morgan, and continue on with the adventures. I assume you can just go there for a sober lunch too…but I can’t really speak to that.
Make a reservation (as it’s usually packed), go with friends, or bring co-workers or clients who seldom stray from the K Street staples and show them something new. To start with, I’d recommend the hobak-jeon (pictured below), which is egg dipped pan fried zucchini. It has a velvety, luxurious eggy texture on the outside and was cooked perfectly, with still some bite to it. Not the typical greasy fried food you might think of. But if you are not a fan of eggs, go with something else.
To wash down your food, grab a traditional Korean beer, and Soju – a traditional potato alcohol similar in taste to Vodka, and stronger than Sake at about 20 percent alcohol. I recommend Saan Soju which is sweet potato alcohol with green tea extract. It’s served chilled, and you can shoot it, sip it straight, or if you want a mixer, try one of their fresh fruit juice options: mango is a nice choice.
At Mandu, like some restaurants serve bread on the table, they serve traditional Korean condiments or snacks, if you will. A plate divided into four sections arrives and everything is made/prepared in house, very fresh and delicious. There is traditional kimchee (fermented cabbage), tofu with vegetables, pickled sweet and spicy zucchini, and marinated potatoes with bean sprouts.
Now for your main course, I’d recommend bulgogi (beef strip loin pictured) which is marinated meat (beef strip loin, chicken, pork, or short rib) served on a hot cast iron skillet plate, with white rice and very fresh, crisp, perfectly cooked mixed vegetables – onion, zucchini, and squash. You really can’t go wrong. Large portions, fresh ingredients perfectly seasoned and cooked.
If you want something a bit more unctuous, or bulgogi is not your cup of tea, try the duru jjigee, which is marinated and spiced pork belly sauteed with kimchee and rice cakes, served with steamed tofu (pictured below).
Mandu is consistently good and will provide a break from your day-to-day routine that’s for sure. A great place to go with friends, on a date, or even a work lunch/dinner that provides a flare that traditional K Street spots might lack.
Where: Mandu, 1805 18th Street NW, Washington, DC 20009. Website.