Tuesday, November 9, 2010


1805 18th street nw, washington, dc 20009
tel: 202) 588-1540

what was consumed: beef & pork pan fried mandu, pa jun (mixed seafood pancake with green onions), yookge jang (thick spicy soup with beef, scallions, egg, and bean sprouts), dak jeem (spicy chicken simmered with potatoes and onions), aloe sojutini, soji (chum-churum)

i've written before about how i'm a snob about my korean food. i blame my mother (which is maybe a good thing to take the blame for. it means that i grew up with awesome food at home and nothing compares to eomma's!). there are very few korean options (and i mean predominantly korean, not those "oh, we also have bi bim bap" as an aside or "we have a bulkogi option" places that sort of riddle the town) in the city proper, especially for meals beyond lunch. i find myself heading out to annadale to get my k-food fix (when i don't cook on my own, that is). all of these reasons, and maybe others, is why people ask me about my thoughts on mandu. i'm almost embarrassed to say that it isn't until now that i actually got myself out to try mandu for myself.

when trying to figure out where to have dinner, c and i made a quick decision to head out to mandu. we quickly head out, made the short drive, and found awesome parking (despite c's sucky parking mojo and mandu's location. i think, though, it's because it was sunday ... ?) there were quite a few diners when we walked in, but still space for us. after a quick glance at their menu (and christine telling me just to pick things to order), we selected a few (standard) appetizers and entrees.

we had to order their namesake - mandu. i usually make my mandu at home because i like the little add-ons (like noodles) or kimchee mandu (yumyum). the pan fried mandu at mandu were nice and crisp. i also liked that they weren't too seasoned, inviting patrons to use the seasoned dipping sauce (a soy sauce and vinegar combination) which is something i often forgo because the mandu is often too salty to begin with. i don't know if they make the mandu wrapper in house, but i don't either so i'm not really one to complain. haha. their pa jun was also not the more usual "one big plate" and was, instead, two small(er) pancakes. i could've gone for more seafood in the pa jun (as seafood was listed as one of the ingredients), but that's almost always the case (haha). again, as was with the mandu, i like that the pa jun wasn't (my version of) over seasoned as you got to taste the different ingredients in the pa jun better as well as enjoy the dipping sauce, which i rarely do.

a note about pah (green onions). they're flavor is wonderful, but i don't like to chew them. and so, while i cook with pah, i usually cut them into huge chunks so that i can extract the flavor, but then pick them out (as un-lady-like as that may be). mandu, on the other hand, chops up pah in tiny pieces (which is the norm). so, what did i do? i picked out what i could, but for the most part, just sucked it up and enjoyed. sigh.

entrees. c & i asked for all portions of our order to come out at the same time and, for the most part, they did. there wasn't anything particularly special about the yookge jang, but it tasted fresh and spicy (c made sure to ask our server to make it extra spicy). i was a little disappointed that there were no noodles (dang myun) in the yookge jang as there often is because i love noodles. oh well. the dak jeem wasn't what i thought it would be (in my mind, what came out is more of a dak doh-ri-tang, but maybe that's just a technicality and/or my ignorance ... ?), but it was still delicious. note: the dak jeem is one place where i did pick out the green onions as best as i could. c just laughed at me. what else is new?

one comment about mandu's rice. maybe it was just the day we went, maybe it's always like this, but their rice sorta sucked. that is, the rice that came with our meals looked like it was the last bits scraped off of the korean-church-sized rice cooker they had goin' in their kitchen, smoshed, molded to look like a 'scoop,' and placed into our bowls. while not the main part of the meal, it is a staple and important part! sigh.

ban-chan. i don't know if many non-korean restaurant go-ers know this, but at most korean restaurants, when you eat all of the little side dishes of food, you can ask for more (just be sure to eat it all). c & i were a little concerned that the policy wouldn't stand here at mandu as it felt more ... american ... but it did! more points for mandu. there were just a few, but delicious, ban chans and c & i most definitely asked for a refill.

when you visit mandu, be sure to have one of their sojutinis. i've had a lot of fun with sojutinis in the past, so i'm biased (though i usually call them cocktail sojus, as is the korean korean way - ha!). the one that is said to be most popular, and the one that i was most interested in, was the aloetini (aloe + soju). really, cocktail sojus are simple (my favorite is still the apple cocktail soju i had in seoul, served in cups made from hollowed-out apples - yeah!). our aloetini was on the watery side, though if you've never had an aloe drink before, you'd never know. especially during hh, i can imagine patrons enjoying mandu's many flavors.

some people may be naysayers of mandu because it doesn't feel like one of those "dive-y" or "korean-style" restaurants that you find in k-towns. the inside is sort of hip, boutique-like, and pretty simple in design. and their dining-ware (i.e. plates and bowls) match. what a concept! haha ... i can see it have the potential to be like the other korean sool-jibs, but maybe only in the dead of night and when they waaay dim the lights. anyway, i found the simple decor pleasant, clean, and comfortable. so there!

i heard that mandu did a korean taco special back in the summer. i'm bummed that i missed it! i hope they do it again. until then, i know i'll be back at mandu in one way or another. yay!

online: http://www.mandudc.com/