Wookiee Hut Cuisine presents:
Mandoo Bar
2 W 32 St, Koreatown, New York, NY
212-279-3075
Review by Susu, MaceVindaloo, Puddly, Excurrent, Ngnrr, CandiGrrl

We'd heard this place was good, and since they'd just opened a new place by NYU, it'd somehow been forgotten by all the raving reviewers of the new place. But it's the flagship store — as tiny as it is — and in midtown, which is much more convenient for most of us to meet up for lunch than Dumplingman, which is a good place way in the East Village, not too far from the newly opened University Place Mandoo Bar. Visiting the mothership was deemed more appealing, since many of us work or live in midtown (even if some of us are young enough to be in university), so it was less of a haul.

What did the NYU students like? Dumplings can be filling and cheap, and they can be had in soup, as a side dish, or a meal all on its own. They can be filled with all manner of things: vegetables, meats, non-meats. And the sauces topping them can by myriad, too. But at Mandoo Bar, it's a more traditional Korean approach.

By the way, "mandoo" (pronounced "mahn-doo" according to someone who knows) is a Korean dumpling. They tend to be boiled or steamed, and occasionally seared. They are not deep-fried. The sauces on the table are hot, soy, and vinegar, and you mix them to your personal taste. The table setting includes little bowls for this, as well as little plates, chopsticks, and a long-handled spoon. We haven't figured out what the spoon is for, yet. They also bring out Japanese horseradish (actually more like a radish) tossed in a kimchee chili sauce, and Japanese style taku-an, which is the same horseradish, only pickled in vinegar and sugar. They were both quite fresh and very good. The contrast between them was marked, but if you find yourself with too much spice in your mouth, chew on the sweet, yellow taku-an for some relief.

The "combo" plate comes with 4 each of seafood, vegetable, and pork mandoo, which are placed in orange, green, and white skins, respectively. We know they make the skins here, because the work area ia right in the window, and you can watch them make the dough, cut it up, fill, and crimp. The "multiples" run about $8 or $9 apiece for 8 to 12 mandoo, depending on the priciness of the filling.

They also offer soups with mandoo in them, including 8 mandoo in a clear broth. But one of us loves the "mandoo ramen bowl" which includes two beef mandoo in a spicy kimchee broth with ramen noodles and eggs. It's a filling meal for about $6 or $7. And they also make other Koream specialities, like seafood scallion pancake, which has slivers of seafood between two scallion pancakes, which are sizzled in a shallow pan of oil till really crispy.

We saw bulgogi — Korean beef barbecue grill platter — and mixed dishes served on portable gas burners, so that diners have some control over their meal. The mostly Korean customers seem to be happy chatting and cooking and eating.

The staff has "family meal" together at the back table. Bowls of noodle and mandoo soup are brought out and they squeeze together on tables which are basically trestles with benches. But they are stylish and attractive and offer a little shelf beneath the table to put your stuff on while you eat, since there is no coat check at this little eatery. And they can be pushed together for a bigger crowd, which we were. (The bowls I saw made me want one, thus my mandoo ramen bowl order!)

It was tasty and filling, and even with special orders on the side, and basic orders of mixed combos and kimchee ramen, the bill came out to about $10 apiece, and we were all very, very full. A good place to go with friends, you can try a large number of things and the staff doesn't mind at all if you're loud or anything. A nice place, and we're sure if you just need a quick bite, you'll enjoy this place and what it can do for you.

By the way, there are many similarities between Japanese and Korean fare, but the Korean among us vouched for the Korean-ness of the food (just as the Japanese among us said it was quite different). There's some crossover, and you'll find that many of the Japanese restaurants here are actually run by Koreans. Have an open mind and enjoy!


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