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Mandu, East Dupont Circle and City Vista - Chef Danny Lee and Family's Korean


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From The List:
Mandu -- Danny Lee (previously a manger at Oceanaire Seafood Room) and his family will open a traditional Korean restaurant in the space formerly occupied by Mt. Everest in Dupont Circle in October 2006. (1805 18th Street, NW)

Everyone in DC that was looking for a local Korean restaurant will soon have one. Grover and I will be there when it opens to give you our (decidedly opinionated) review.

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I am very excited as this place is around the corner from me. If anyone is interested in checking this out when it opens, PM me and I will organize a little gathering. From a first look through the window it seems to be a bit far from opening.
Keep us informed for the opening and then you can join Grover and me on our tour through mandoo at Mandu. We'll see if Annandale has migrated to DC.
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This is great news. Hopefully it will be real Korean in the city. I've gotten by with Kuma, but it's more Japanese- Korean. Definitely interested in a DR outing when it opens. Mmm, spicy food and ice cold soju. Can't wait.
Sounds like the basis for another $20 Tuesday when it opens. DanielK, can you find an open date? (we're running out of 2006 dates)
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Even though this article from Slate is about Chinese dumplings, a restaurant that calls itself Mandu should know the proper way to make them. Here is the Slate article about mandoo from a fellow UVa grad. Mandoo are made all over Asia and are a matter of personal and regional pride.

A couple of quick quotes: "Today, like American barbecue, nearly every region in China has its own dumpling, often reflecting regional character."

"Northern China (especially Dongbei and Shangdong), bordering Korea, is a tough place where the people often resemble Koreans and share a similar intransigent personality. Their dumplings are direct and simple but satisfying—comfort dumplings. The skins are extra chewy, and some of the most famous use lamb and pumpkin as stuffing."

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We going to wait until someone tests it out first, before we swarm with a large group?
Don't worry, Grover and I will make the opening week...then we can swarm it with a large group (why does a swarm of locusts come to mind?. They haven't opened yet, but as soon as they do Grover and I will go)
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I love dumplings. All kind of dumplings. I usually benchmark Chinese restaurants with dumplings because dumplings integrate all the ingredients and flavors. My nickname was the dumpling killer and my mom used say that 'you should marry a Chinese guy to eat dumplings all the time'. I wish I could but I didn't. :)

Anyway, I know Mandu is a Korean restaurant and Korean dumpling has lighter flavor than porky, gingery Chinese dumpling. Dumpling skin is thinner and more veggies in the stuffing than Chinese one.

Since Danny Lee named his restaurant as Mandu I have to use my benchmark skill and hope it doesn't disappoint me.

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She also reports that while walking past last week, the staff were taking their lunch break on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant, and the aroma from their dumplings was incredibly tantalizingly good. As she has both a good nose and is a total dumpling hound, I take this non-preview to be a very positive sign.

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So who went today?

My wife and I just got back. I'll just put in my two cents worth, having only been once...

- Menu is small, but big enough. Mr. Lee has the usual Korean standards on the menu and that's it. Bulgogi, kalbi, bibimbop (dolsot and regular), kimchee chigae, mandu guk, and yuk gae jang is about as non-standard as the menu gets.

- I tend to judge Korean restaurants by their yuk gae jang and this one was really good. Not bland like Woo Lae Oak and nice and spicy. I'm going to email Danny to ask him to put the cellophane noodles in, but otherwise it was the best I'd had in a while.

- The only banchan you get is some weak kimchee and the zucchini one (I can't remember the name). They ran out of the lotus root before we got there apparently.

- Dolsot bibimbop = $11.95. Yuk gae jang =$10.95. Kalbi=$19.95.

- Mandu taste just like the ones my mom makes.

Definitely off to a good start. It surely beats driving out to Annandale and/or putting up with Woo Lae Oak if you live near Dupont.

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"The only banchan you get is some weak kimchee and the zucchini one (I can't remember the name). They ran out of the lotus root before we got there apparently."

Whaaat? Menu looks good but if this is all the pan-chan, I'm disappointed and skeptical. To me, nothing exemplifies Korean generosity, variety and voracious appetite (have you seen how much Koreans can eat?) as much as the pan-chan served. While I can do without the potato salad with apples, I'll miss things like the mung bean, spinach and soybean salads, the sweet/salty black beans, cuttlefish and dried sardines, radish and cucumber kimchee . . .. Pan-chan is half the fun and allure of eating Korean. And the kimchee has to be good. Weak kimchee is a bad sign.

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You know, I have to admit that I was a bit leery of posting last night, or at all really, as I had only been there one time and it was their opening night.

I have to agree that only two banchan is a bit strange for a Korean place, but it might well have been that they are going to have more, but it was just bad timing or unusual availability or something. I didn't want to judge Mr. Lee, et al., without giving them opportunities to fix shortcomings that shook out on the first night's service.

But for it's worth, at the end of the day, there were only two banchan.

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Went to Mandu last night, and while it's nowhere near the same league as some Korean I've had in the past, we had a fine meal, and I'll definitely return.

The place is very cleanly designed and modern. It's a pleasant atmosphere, the only detraction being the bizarre trek out a side door and down some stairs to get to the bathroom. We were a large party served family style with a pre-set menu. There were only three panchan (a disappointment)--kimchee, cucumber, and sweet potato--followed by pancakes, barbecued beef and chicken, noodles, stir-fried veggies, and fresh fruit for dessert. Nothing too Korean about the veggies, but they were tasty enough, and crisp. The noodles were the winner, well-cooked with good flavor and ingredients. The "sojutinis" they offer are a neat twist on the regular old bar cocktail. I suppose that the most impressive thing may be that, though the place had only been open only about 24 hours, the service was good--unobtrusive, competent, and helpful.

A good start!

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It's a pleasant atmosphere, the only detraction being the bizarre trek out a side door and down some stairs to get to the bathroom.

At lunch they played some loud modern pop music thing, recorded live. Thousands of screaming prepubescent girls does not add to the ambience. Other than that I liked the place.

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One and a half stars from Tom.

OK, let's do the math. This is being printed on Sunday 1/14. Lead time for the magazine is probably 3-4 weeks, so he submitted this article somewhere between the 15th and 22nd of December. They didn't open the restaurant until 11/20. That means ALL of his visits were within the first month of opening, and perhaps even started the first week.

Someone needs to lock him and Kliman in a room, and not let them out until they agree to do only "quick bite" reviews, and not even VISIT for a formal review until the place has been open for 90 days. This continues to be a huge disservice to restauranteurs and patrons alike.

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The first time I went to a Korean restaurant they explained everything to me. They still do! It is just courtesy, customer service and pride in their dishes. Tom is doing the same thing here! The majority of people in this area have never eaten Korean food. Different circles you know. I would be very happy as a (insert nationality here) that Tom gave a good review and took time to educate the public of my national cuisine.

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We ate there last night and I thought it was odd that our server told my dining companion that his dolsot bibimbap was meant to be stirred together... now I know why.

Very friendly service, tasty and filling entrees in the $10-15 price range -- it may not be the best Korean food in the area, but it's got the bones of a good neighborhood place. Four panchan (lotus root, spicy cucumbers, fish cakes, and kimchee) at the moment.

There are two chicken dishes, one grilled and one simmered, and I had the simmered one. Really delicious chunks of dark meat in a thin red sauce. Great washed down with some roasted corn tea.

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Escoffier and I finally had a chance to eat lunch at Mandu today. We planned to eat last friday but it was postponed. The place was clean and the atmosphere was friendly and we got attention from the server as soon as we entered. I read the other DR members' postings and I would like to explain the food.

1. The style of cuisine: The chef, Mrs. Lee was born and raised in Seoul city which is in the mid-area of the Korean peninsula. This explains why her food isn't as spicy as what is in Annandale. (Most Korean chefs working in Annandale restaurants are from the southern area where the food is rather spicier and it has a stronger taste.) As soon as I tasted her food, I realized that Mrs. Lee is not from the southern part of the country and confirmed where she was from before we left the restaurant. Those who are familar with the Korean food in Annandale definitely will feel that Mandu serves weak Kimchee.

2. The number of banchan: Personally, I would rather have fewer but better quality banchan than more but not as tasty banchan. Today, we had 3 banchan (lotus root, fish cake and spicy pickled cucumber) when we had an appetizer (6 beef/pork dumplings, which, by the way are very tasty). After we finished the first banchan, Danny brought more banchan which was marinated dried-cod, string beans, marinated fried-Tofu and more fish cakes. Those 6 banchan were very tasty. I would say they are higher quality than Gombawoo's.

The service and the food was good. The chili sauce for the bibimbop was a bit sweeter than usual but good. Our total bill was (including tax and tip) $35.00.

I am thinking about having $20 Tuesday there because I can demonstrate how Mandu's food is different from the usual Annandale Korean food.

By the way, mxyzptlk, Yuk-Gae-Jang is considered standard Korean food. It's found in almost every restaurant in Annandale. May I ask what restaurant you have been to that didn't serve it?

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I am thinking about having $20 Tuesday there because I can demonstrate how Mandu's food is different from the usual Annandale Korean food.

By the way, mxyzptlk, Yuk-Gae-Jang is considered standard Korean food. It's found in almost every restaurant in Annandale. May I ask what restaurant you have been to that didn't serve it?

By all means. The LAME DUCKS and those in the outer 'burbs from this area will be happy to show up and have you walk us through the only Korean restaurant in this neighborhood. Name a time (we know the place).
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By the way, mxyzptlk, Yuk-Gae-Jang is considered standard Korean food. It's found in almost every restaurant in Annandale. May I ask what restaurant you have been to that didn't serve it?

I have to admit that I haven't found a restaurant in DC that doesn't serve yuk-gae-jang, but there are ones in Chicago, where I grew up, that didn't serve it at all. In fact, the first time I saw it was when I was 14 when I went BACK to Korea to visit relatives.

Now if we could get them all to serve sol-long-tang and soon-dae (not necessarily together), that would be a real accomplishment....

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Now if we could get them all to serve sol-long-tang and soon-dae (not necessarily together), that would be a real accomplishment....
For soolontang, you'll have to hike out to Gamasot in Springfield. It's a house specialty and worth the trek...(they also have really good soon-dae as well). Gamasots soolontang is addictive it's so good.
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Just so I understand, this restaurant serves Korean Seoul food?

I couldn't resist.

My whole family was born and raised in the same city for more than 3 generations. That's why I was able to distinguish her food from others.

Also I was glad tasting hometown food. Mrs. Lee told us that she would like to serve Seoul food which she is familiar to make. Her command of English is very good. I am going to ask her to give explanation about Seoul food when we arrange $20 Tuesday dinner.

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My whole family was born and raised in the same city for more than 3 generations. That's why I was able to distinguish her food from others.

Also I was glad tasting hometown food. Mrs. Lee told us that she would like to serve Seoul food which she is familiar to make. Her command of English is very good. I am going to ask her to give explanation about Seoul food when we arrange $20 Tuesday dinner.

I believe it was a take on Seoul sounding like soul :-) Very punny Jacques, very punny indeed!

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Many, many thanks to DanielK for organizing tonight's FEAST at Mandu and Grover for whipping the kitchen into the "above and beyond the call of duty" mode. It was all very, very good. And, I am still STUFFED. To a Greenhorn like myself, this was a good introduction to Korean cuisine. Wonderful company with the usual suspects (this means YOU Claudia, Scott, Eric, Matt, and, of course, Jake) at my end of the table. Mandu did themselves PROUD this evening. While we appreciated the kind offers of a lift home, Dame Edna and I did ourselves a great favor by walking home. It helped a lot. :o

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Many, many thanks to DanielK for organizing tonight's FEAST at Mandu and Grover for whipping the kitchen into the "above and beyond the call of duty" mode.

I take no credit - all I did was make a couple of posts in the topic, usually after being prompted by Grover. She did all of the organizing work, and deserves all the kudos.

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Thanks to Grover, DanielK and everyone for organizing, and of course to the folks at Mandu who were great hosts. My first dr.com dinner was a very enjoyable one; I'll surely show up at many more.

Hopefully I'll eat a little less next time.

I probably will not.

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To a Greenhorn like myself, this was a good introduction to Korean cuisine.
Grover and Escoffier did a wonderful job introducing me to previously-undiscovered parts of Korean food at Lighthouse Tofu in Rockville. They're great hosts, eh?! I'm sorry i couldn't make it last night to Mandu--sounded like Grover had done a lot of footwork with the restaurant ahead of time.
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Could someone comment on the food-let us know what you had, what you liked, didn't like, would order again?

I didn't catch too many of the names of things as they were brought to the table, but I think everything was from the regular menu, so I'm using the online menu to try and figure out what we had. The bulgogi (bulgo-ki on the menu?) and the spicy chicken dish (dak-jeem?) were my faves. The dumplings were good but I only had a couple so I'd definitely want to give those another try: the pan-fried one I had was really crispy and damn good. The seafood pancake (pa jun) didn't really do it for me, but it wasn't bad. Thanks to all the organizers, as if it hasn't been said enough. I'll definitely be back to try this place out in a smaller group: I live about a block away.

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In addition to the things mentioned above, we also had a good variety of panchan (kimchi that was more vinegary than spicy), egglant, tofu, fishcakes, and I think some green beans. We also had stir fried vegetables and jop chae (warm sauteed cellophane noodles with veggies and meat). I really liked the jop chae, it was warm and comforting. I also really enjoyed the spicy chicken dish we had (I do not know the name of the dish). While the food at Mandu is not exceedingly spicy and definitely not as spicy as some of the other Korean restaurants where we've had $20 dinners, the chicken dish had a nice kick to it. For dessert, we had some fresh fruit (melon and berries). I also had a grape sojutini. It was well made but too sweet for me, at least as a before-dinner drink. I thought Mandu was very generous with the portions and the selections. At the end of the meal there was a lot of food left over and they happily brought us take home containers to fill.

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I didn't catch too many of the names of things as they were brought to the table, but I think everything was from the regular menu, so I'm using the online menu to try and figure out what we had. The bulgogi (bulgo-ki on the menu?) and the spicy chicken dish (dak-jeem?) were my faves. The dumplings were good but I only had a couple so I'd definitely want to give those another try: the pan-fried one I had was really crispy and damn good. The seafood pancake (pa jun) didn't really do it for me, but it wasn't bad. Thanks to all the organizers, as if it hasn't been said enough. I'll definitely be back to try this place out in a smaller group: I live about a block away.

Appetizers: Mandu - shrimp, beef & pork, and vegetable

Pa jun - seafood pancake (Mrs. Lee grinds her seafood and mixes it with the batter before she makes her pa jun. Some people (me) prefer their pa jun with pieces of seafood, but this version was good).

Jap-chae - for some reason, this wasn't served hot but warm. Didn't seem to matter much, it disappeared quickly. Very nice consistency of noodles, crunchy veggies.

Yache gui - Grilled veggies with sesame seeds. This was almost enough to convince me to become vegetarian. The veggies were very good.

Main Courses: Bulgo-ki - Very tasty grilled beef loin. Surprisingly, this was thicker than what we normally get when the meat is grilled at the table. The extra thickness seemed to bring out more of the beef flavor.

Dak-jeem - Chicken simmered in spices. OMG, this was good. Large pieces of boneless chicken (both light and dark meat) simmered in a light sauce with red pepper. There was definite spiciness to this dish but it wasn't overpowering. Food from the Seoul area is spiced but not as heavily as from other regions of Korea. I (and I think most other people) ate way too much of this dish.

Naturally, there was rice and panchan (which was refilled or replaced whenever it got low). The kimchi was especially nice. Nice spice kick, great crunch and very tasty.

For dessert (which Koreans (most Asians for that matter) don't eat), a large bowl of fruit. I don't think anyone went home hungry or dissatisfied. All of the food came from the regular menu (with the exception of the fruit at the end). For a grand total of $26 each, it was a bargain.

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Mandu really deserves a higher ranking in the dining guide.

I've been 4 or 5 times in the past few months (it's become one of my go to destinations for pre-work meals, since they aren't closed between 2 and 5), and I've yet to have an unsatisfying meal. It may be more tame than other Korean options out in Annandale, but the service is great, the atmosphere is pleasant and these two aspects together with simple, yet consistently good cooking, give the food and overall dining experience a very homey feel.

I normally go for either the Dolsot Bibim Bap ($12, and well worth the $2 up-charge from the regular bibim bap), a generous portion of rice, vegetables, and beef, topped with a fried egg and served in a burning hot stone bowl, with chili paste on the side; or the Duk Bok Gi ($11), a plate of rice cakes (think Asian gnocchi, but with more chew), mushrooms, onions, and beef in a perfectly spicy chili sauce. But yesterday, after escaping the first few flakes of the latest phase of snowmageddon, I went for the Ojeenga Bokum ($13), a large plate of sauteed squid and mixed vegetables in a sauce similar to the duk bok gi, but spicier. All of these plates have been deeply satisfying, and fully warranted their relatively low price tags, especially considering the ever-present complimentary appetizers (Banchan). While they don't change very frequently, the usual suspects (kimchi, marinated zucchini, tofu, potatoes, and bean sprouts) are still a welcome start to each meal.

Appetizers have been really good as well -- all of the Mandu (dumplings) are worth trying, especially during their happy hour, when you get 6 for $3 (and they're happy to split the orders among different types) -- but the steamed shrimp option has been my favorite. The jun (egg-dipped shrimp, fish, beef, or beef-stuffed peppers) are also a good start (particularly the seafood options) as is the Doobu ($4), egg-dipped and pan fried tofu, one of the few preparations of tofu I've consumed that actually left me wanting more.

From the looks of it, Mandu has been neglected since the dr.com dinner a few years back, but as long as the kitchen keeps putting out this kind of food just a 10 minute walk from the Dupont metro, it ought to get more attention.

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Mandu really deserves a higher ranking in the dining guide.

Agreed. They also have Korean Tacos Thursday-Saturday. It's like having a Kogi BBQ. In DC. Without the truck. Well, you know what I mean, right?

I was at Kushi on Saturday night, and saw a permit application in the window of an undeveloped space next door for Mandu. Is Mandu moving or expanding?

These are two very interesting posts. When two people (in this case) mention a restaurant is underrated, it's time to revisit.

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