It’s fascinating to me how one place can unite a diverse selection of people. Mandu, the unassuming, lively Korean restaurant in Dupont Circle, does just that for many friends of mine who don’t even know each other. Crowding into the tiny front bar enjoying one of the best happy hour deals in town, I’m guaranteed to bump into any number of people from all areas of my life.
The Lee family have opened a second location of their much-beloved Mandu, with a larger, sexier space in the CityVista complex. I’m sure it will become just as popular as the original location. I recently checked it out and was thrilled to see bar manager Christian Diep, one of the most gregarious and fun-loving bartenders in town. Sitting at the end of the floating wooden bar (hooks underneath? check), I tucked into several of my favorite Mandu dishes and got a tour of the modern space. It was just as welcoming as it always is at the Dupont location – somehow they make everyone feel like they’re home.
And with a late night menu where you can nosh on shredded pork tacos or quesadillas filled with kimchi, chicken and cheese… well, you may not ever have to leave.
The late night menu (served from 11pm-1am) isn’t the only tempting addition. Boccato is providing Mandu with gelato, news that makes me palpitate as Christian detailed exotic choices like Earl Grey Tea. But first I had to get a tour of the space. Its soaring ceilings give an airy feel, punctuated by flying green duck sculptures (I thought maybe there was some special significance but Christian laughed, “Green ducks have nothing to do with Korea.” They just look cool!) and a view to the kitchen. Take a close look at the art on the walls of the upstairs space, photographs highlighting the construction of the restaurant.
This new space may be sexier than the Dupont location, but don’t worry – all your favorite homestyle Korean specialties are still on the menu. I have one friend who absolutely craves their dolsot bibim bap on a weekly basis, the filling rice dish with vegetables, beef (or tofu, chicken or pork) and a fried egg on top, served in a hot stone bowl that makes everything happy. And even though I’m usually a complex cocktail girl, there’s something crazy fun about those sojutinis with aloe or yogurt (now that he has an expanded bar, Christian is working up a new cocktail menu with fresh ingredients like blood orange).
The night we visited, we were in serious need of comfort food and went right for the mandu – Korean dumplings pan-fried or steamed and filled with vegetable, beef and pork, or shrimp. I’m partial to the pan-fried version, with just a little bit of crisp to take the edge off a cold night. Because I’m still suffering from a cold, I needed soup, and went with their spicy codfish stew. Daegoo maewoon tang has a hunk of cod falling off the bone into a luscious red broth, so restorative I might be back tonight for more. My friend gave up her usual bibim bap order for another soup, the dak kalguksoo – shredded chicken with wide noodles and vegetables – which she loved.
There’s no question in my mind that there will be many more nights of my belly being full of Korean comfort food while relaxing at Mandu. As one of the outposts of the CityVista complex, it’s bound to become a hot late-night destination, with closing hours far later than the Dupont location. See you there.
Mandu is located at 453 K Street NW, Washington DC 20001. Closest Metro stop: Mt. Vernon Square/Convention Center (Yellow/Green lines). For more information call (202) 289-6899.