date of visit: Friday 7 September 2012
Our last visit to Mandoo, still tucked away on Bank Street, was over a year ago and it’s been quite remiss of us to leave it such a long time between visits.
When we catch the train into work we see the chef at work first thing in the morning (and I mean about 8am) and on Friday night, come 9pm, he was still busy shaping dumplings. Clearly, the dumpling business means hard work and long hours. However, the people of Adelaide are grateful for his efforts because the teensy tiny restaurant was packed.
We had no reservation – this was a last minute dining decision (on my part, Andy claimed he wasn’t hungry). And so there we were, on a Friday night around 8pm, peering in the window and seeing just one table for two clear … but topped by a ‘reserved’ sign.
Fortunately, our mournful faces were spotted, we were beckoned inside and seated at the reserved table. Around us, there was table shuffling as more faces appeared at the window – even if you turn up without a reservation, it seems like the staff at Mandoo will bend over backwards to accommodate you. The restaurant is tiny so it’s a cosy, convivial and bustling dining experience.
No hanging around ordering – I was ready for steamed kim chi dumplings while Andy opted for fried pork dumplings. On our last visit, I noted that most dishes were priced at $9.99. Prices have gone up: our dinner came in at $25, and the dumpling dishes are now around the $12-13 mark. Hardly a lot of money – especially when the food is not only tasty but also beautifully presented.
Eight dumplings (a sane portion size that will fill hungry tummies without leaving you overwhelmed) are served with a spicy dipping sauce, a salad, cold mashed potato (this appears to be a Korean thing) and pickles. The dumplings are still well stuffed so you need not fear a burst of hot water and a burnt mouth. The kim chi dumplings have plenty of texture and flavour (OK – they have kim chi in them, it’d be very hard for them to NOT have flavour). That texture is a big part of what I really rate about these dumplings. So many dumplings are filled with a smooth, pappy mixture.
Service at Mandoo is efficient – and the dumplings come out very quickly (they are all sitting in large steamers, ready to go!), which makes it ideal if you need a quick feed on your way from A to B. I believe the restaurant is not licensed and while there are both drink fridges and tea, water is brought to the table as a matter of course, and this is good enough for me. The staff are helpful too – when I ordered the kim chi dumplings the waitress did check that I knew what I was getting myself into!
I was so pleased to return to Mandoo after a year and find it popular and busy. I was even more pleased to find the dumplings remain top notch.
If you like Korean food and would like a slower pace and a wider menu, I suggest you check out Ga Bin on Grote Street. Make sure you try the kim chi pancake there.