Born and raised in Seoul, Yesoon Lee grew up learning how to cook traditional Korean comfort foods. Today, she continues to embrace the recipes and the flavors of her homeland by recreating those dishes at Mandu: the restaurant she opened with her children, Jean and Danny. With locations in Dupont Circle and the Mount Vernon Triangle, Mandu also tempts patrons with an inviting charm that led The Washington Post to claim that the eatery, “knows how to make a diner feel good.” In addition to steaming or pan-frying the dumplings— or mandu—that inspired the restaurant’s name, Chef Lee and her team forge a variety of iconic Korean dishes. Barbecued beef short ribs and stir-fried potato noodles appear alongside classics like bibim bap. The mixed meat, veggie, and egg dish is served in a hot stone bowl, which helps to heat the rice from the bottom and explains why all of Mandu's tables look so relaxed. And although each location features a small selection of wines by the bottle or glass, they pair meals with a handful of Korean beers as well as soju—Korea’s most famous distilled spirit.
Korean specialties such as barbecue short ribs, kimchi, and?of course?tofu soup fill the menu at this casual restaurant with outposts in Annandale and Centreville. Among the chefs' crowning offerings are steaming bowls of bi bim bap that cradle bulgogi (Korean-style marinated beef) as well as heaps of bean sprouts, corn, and fried egg. Depending on personal tastes, the spice levels of each dish can be custom calibrated from ultra-mild ?white? to three-alarm ?spicy spicy.? But not all dishes served here come to the table piping hot, including the cool naegn myun soup, a refreshing summer dish loaded with buckwheat noodles, slices of beef, and hints of Noreaster.
The sign outside is unassuming and the inside––bearing nothing more than a few stools––may make newcomers wonder how Adam Express stays in business. But one bite into a fresh sushi roll or Korean entrée makes it all clear. Those who happen to snag one of two seats in front of the open kitchen can sit and watch as chefs prepare kimchee and bibimbap to order without flavor enhancers like MSG or chocolate syrup. Besides Korean specialties like chap chae––vermicelli noodles with shredded beef, veggies, and soy sauce––the chefs cook up a number of Chinese dishes such as fried rice and lomein, and blend Japanese and Korean traditions to make bulgogi sushi rolls, which feature marinated beef, crab cakes, and pickled radish.
In spite of its name, Cafe Chocolate embraces the spirit of a Korean karaoke bar instead of a French coffee shop . The eatery keeps the nightlife alive until as late as 2 a.m. throughout the week, encouraging patrons to belt out their favorite power ballads while sipping a drink by the bottle, pint, or pitcher . To accompany the spirits and spirited singing, Cafe Chocolate also features a menu of eclectic comfort foods. Dishes such as the kimchi-spiked fried rice and the seafood pancake are unquestionably borrowed from Korean cuisine. However, the chefs also prepare crispy, Japanese–style tonkatsu as well as classic bar foods, including buffalo wings and curly fries.
Though rooted in Korean culinary traditions, the dishes at Red Holic might feel familiar even to those foreign to that gustatory language. Seven types of kimbap—a translation of the maki roll—enfold everything from spicy squid to Spam within a soft blanket of white rice and sweetened radish. Similar to blood sausage, soondae encases noodles and veggies within pig intestine, toppoki dishes pair rice cake with egg or dumplings, and Holic meals frame sautéed beef or Korean-style pork as the centerpiece. As if the flavor profiles and colorful ingredient weren’t enough to entice the senses, Red Holic stays true to its name, surrounding guests in a crimson wonderland speckled with white-topped tables and solid black chairs. To fill the wall space, reliefs feature domestic themes, including clotheslines laden with pins and a watering can hanging over flowers, constantly suspended by the cooks’ telekinesis.
There's a reason chicken takes top billing at Chi-Mc Chicken And Beer?it's the eatery's most popular dish. The Korean fried chicken pairs so well with a plate of crisp french fries that diners often conduct small marriage ceremonies before gobbling them up. Of course, the menu features plenty other, more traditional preparations, such as the oft-spicy Ramyeun?a Korean version of ramen?and bulgogi, which marinates beef and veggies in soy sauce before cooking. For the more adventurous tongue, spicy whelk (sea snail) and squid seafood soup add an exotic flair to top off the offerings.