Neighborhood: Dupont Circle
As one of her last meals before heading off to parts East, Official Friend of DCWD Madison gathered a group of us for a goodbye dinner at Mandu. Along for the ride were Official Friends of DCWD Talia, Jay, and Mindo.
Mandu's logo is in brown and orange, and the decor is slightly reflective of that theme, with cherry wood paneling and an orange candlelit glow from the track lighting. The brick walls are painted a faint yellow, and covered occasionally with Asian watercolor paintings and shelves with small bowls on them. For a space with two floors, the dining room feels a little small. Most of the cherry-wood tables to me seemed more group-friendly than two-tops, but there were a few scattered here and there.
For a group of seven in total, we weren't too imaginative with ordering food, with only me ordering something that wasn't bibimbap. The rest of the group ordered some variation of the traditional Korean dish, a bowl of rice with vegetables, beef (or for the vegetarians, tofu), and a fried egg. Okay, all cards on the table: I have to admit that of all the Asian cuisines, I like Korean the least. For me, this sort of represented why: it was perfectly adequate but lacked any sort of punch-you-in-the-face flavor to make it memorable. Nice textures, nice cooking, just nothing remarkable.
On the other hand, I ordered the duru jjigee: pork belly sauteed with kimchee, rice cakes, and steamed tofu. Pork belly comes in many forms these days, but this was close to the kind of pork belly that I grew up with, more reminiscent of sizzling beef in form and texture than a chunk of bacon. Still, it had that wonderful fat and some kick from its spice marinade and the kimchee. An interesting textural shift with the rice cakes and the tofu, and so there was a lot to like here.
Again, I'm not a Korean food kind of guy, but if I had to, I'd go here.
Food Rating: *** (out of 5)
Date Rating: 2.5 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code: Casual
Bar Rating: Classy Crowd
Vibe: Chatty to Energetic
Cost: $$ (out of 5) ($25-$50 for two)
Pairing: Just because this is exactly what we did afterwards, head up 18th St to Chi-Cha Lounge for one of DCWD's favorite hookah spots.