Whoever said the beaten path was best? Mandu, the Korean late-night joint with hand-rolled dumplings (coated with just the right amount of oil sheen) and sojutinis (crafted from soju, Korea’s answer to Japanese sake), is a bit off the beaten path – in the middle of a sketch stretch of K (between 4th and 5th, NW).
Chatty manager Jesse graciously lets me pull my bicycle in, and not in the pretentiously polite manner affected by managers who, in truth, are following some central-office hospitality script. He gives dynamic service with a poetic form of spirit that so abundantly populates the legendary dining rooms of New York City, but also with the flourish and ease of a San Fransiscan maître d’.
The restaurant itself is divided evenly into two parts. After entering from a glass-encased vestibule, the bar is to the left and the dining room to the right. Dinner service is over, but the long, low bar is teeming with scenesters. After my companion orders from the manager, we sit and have our first cocktail, the aforementioned sojutini. Although fruity, the drink is tempered by the earthiness of the soju and isn’t cloying sweet (think girly, not frilly).
The food comes. The beautiful dumplings on a plate, each its own shape and color, one containing pork, one shrimp, and the other vegetables. With the sesame soy sauce, it’s the perfect late night nosh – fast, filling and fried. We also have some tacos that, along with the perfunctory meat feature, come with kimchi, the Korean cabbage staple. They’re delicious.
Lots of fancy girls and beefy guys stand around the bar, flirting and sipping and eyeing the other PYTs. Yeah, it’s a little meat markety, but if you go with a friend and dress down, no one will bother you. The music is pumping, the bartenders are friendly, and the drinks are yummy. So the next time you’re out and have had a few, and your tummy’s growling, go to Mandu and see what a hot late-night scene really looks like.
|Neighborhood:||Mt. Vernon Triangle|
|Address:||453 K St., NW (5th St.) Washington, DC 20001|
|Metro:||Gallery Place/Chinatown and Mt. Vernon Square/Convention Center|
|Serves:||Lunch (Daily); Dinner (Daily)|
|Specials:||Monday-Friday (4-7 PM): $3 Mandu (dumplings); $3 draft beer (American Craft); $4 sojutinis (house cocktails with
Korean liquor) and mixed drinks
|Go for:||Bulgogi; house-made Mandu (dumplings); Korean tacos|