Thursday, July 17, 2014

Restaurant of the Month: Mandu DC

In 2006, I spent six months in Seoul for work. I fell in love with the city: the food in Insadong, late party nights in Gangnam, salsa dancing in Hongdae, and hiking the mountains which surround the city.  I became immersed in the culture and warmth of the people.  I was lucky enough to meet great locals who I bonded with during late nights of eating Korean BBQ of Samgyeopsal (pork belly) and washing it down with soju (best described as a Korean vodka). When I arrived at Mandu DC on K Street, I was transported to the great times and meals I had during my days in Seoul. 

The Bar at Mandu DC

It was eight of us at the table, so we decided to share several items from the menu.  For starters, we had san jeok (mini skewers with beef and mixed vegetables), pa jeon (mixed seafood and scallion pancake), and of course, Mandu (steamed dumplings).  All the starters were great but the item I remember the most was the pa jeon. It was not a huge pancake like the ones you get at a traditional Korean restaurants but small patties with fare better when sharing with a large group. 
Mandu at Mandu
For the main course,  we ordered several dishes: bulgogi (korean BBQ marinated ribeye), galbi (korean BBQ beef short ribs), dwejee bulgogi (spice marinated pork), duru jjigee (marinated pork belly sauteed with kimchi and rice cakes and steamed tofu on the side), and (ohjinguh bokum (spiced squid sauteed with carrots, green chili peppers, zucchini and onion).  From the main dishes, my favorite was the duru jjigee, ordered at the suggestion of the owner, Chef Yesoon Lee. When she came to greet us at the table, I told her my favorite Korean dishes are Samgyeopsal and dduk bok ki (rice cakes in spicy sauce) and she suggested it.  This dish was everything I love about  Korean food in one plate. 
Duru Jjigee

We were not aware the evening we dined it was also Anju night at Mandu.  On the first Friday of every month, the restaurant works with local chefs to create a combination of late night food and cocktails. We stuck around to check it out. The bar rapidly became crowded with foodie devouring noodles to fried chicken. Although we were full, we decided to have a little dessert, sweet potato donut holes. They were nicely fried, rolled in sugar, and had a delicious gooey filling. 
Noodle Dish from Anju Night
When I asked Chef Lee what inspired her menu, she said she wanted a menu designed for sharing based on what she learned from growing up in Seoul.  I believe she captured it perfectly.  The restaurant reminds me of the upscale restaurants of Gangnam but it has a warm and friendly vibe. It was a great dining experience. I look forward to returning! 
OB and Soju, the Korean Way!

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