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The Weekly Dish

On Danny Lee's menu, Korean food only.
On Danny Lee's menu, Korean food only.
Wednesday, September 13, 2006

BRING ON THE BIBIMBAP! The one place where Vienna native Danny Lee knew he and his family wouldn't be opening their forthcoming restaurant was in their own back yard. In Northern Virginia, he points out, "Korean restaurants are everywhere."

The same cannot be said of the District, however, which is why Lee, a former manager at the Oceanaire Seafood Room , his mother, his sister and an uncle plan to start offering the kind of cooking Lee grew up on -- possibly as early as mid-October -- at Mandu (1805 18th St. NW) in Dupont Circle. The new restaurant replaces Mt. Everest and takes its name from the popular Korean dumpling.

Unlike the very few Korean purveyors in the city, Mandu will not bother serving sushi or other Japanese dishes. "No fusion," insists the 25-year-old Lee. "No California rolls." Instead, the menu will hew to tradition: the aforementioned steamed and pan-fried mandu filled with meat, seafood or vegetables; kalbi (grilled marinated short ribs); bibimbap (rice topped with vegetables, meat and an egg, and spiked with chili paste); and soups made exciting with kimchi, Korea's fiery fermented cabbage. As at the competition, there will be panchan, a flurry of side dishes to graze on with entrees; unlike in so many Korean restaurants, though, the tables won't be set with individual grills. Lee's mother, Yesoon Lee , is creating all the recipes and plans to oversee the kitchen.

Mandu will spread 100 or so seats across two floors and an outdoor patio. As the project nears completion, Lee paints a picture of ceramic tile or hardwood floors, recessed lighting, exposed brick and bare mahogany tables. There will be a big bar, too, specializing in drinks made with soju , a clear but potent spirit made from sweet potatoes. Lee is calling the cocktails "soju-tinis."

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