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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Casual restaurant

Mon–Thu 11:30am–10:00pm
Fri–Sat 11:30am–11:00pm
Sun 11:30am–9:00pm

Features Outdoor dining, veg-friendly
Bar Beer, wine, liquor
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx
Reservations Accepted


1805 18th St. NW
Washington, DC
(202) 588-1540
The nibbles are enjoyable enough—just not the spice—at this sweet little Korean sidewalk spot

Mandu—“little dumpling” in Korean—is housed in a cute-as-a-dumpling space just off of Dupont Circle on 18th Street, on the way toward Adams Morgan. The upstairs room feels airy yet intimate, the bright lighting helps preserve the feeling that you’re in a Seoul cafeteria rather than a DC hotspot, and the sidewalk tables are as charming as any in the city, ideal spots for Parisian-style people-watching.

Although the cocktails are offensively trendy, Mandu’s food menu is as unassuming as the décor. If it feels a little like home cooking, there’s a good reason: Mama’s in the kitchen. The bowl of bibimbap includes rice, vegetables, and meat, topped with an egg that continues to fry atop the steaming food as the dish arrives—although unfortunately, you have to pay extra for the traditional stone bowl. Clearly, Mandu’s management has some background in market segmentation strategy.

The crown jewels of the restaurant’s offerings are—not surprisingly, given the name of the place—its dumplings and other appetizers. The modeum jun are precious vegetables and meats fried in a batter that’s tempura-like but more nuanced. Also good are the delicate goo jul mari (crêpes); the regular mandu are honest—homemade dough and fresh fillings—but uninteresting.

And unfortunately, in spite of all the homey cuteness, “uninteresting” is a word that describes a lot of what goes on here with the main courses, too. Barbecue dishes lack smokiness or deeply marinated flavor. And where is the heat in the supposedly “spicy” soon doobu (seafood and tofu soup)? Where is the searing sourness of the kimchi? Where is the excitement? Guess Mama’s a softy.

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