12A The Boulevard
Strathfield, NSW 2135
After an extremely long day, I found myself unwilling to even contemplate the idea of cooking, and so ended up at The Mandoo, a small but popular Korean dumpling restaurant that I’ve had my eye on for the last year or so.
The place is even tinier than I had imagined, with diners crammed elbow-to-elbow on shared tables in the narrow space. Combined with the warm day, the lack of air conditioning, and the steamers full of dumplings in the open kitchen, and you’ve got a stuffy and frankly rather uncomfortable place to eat. But having dined perched on plastic stools at the side of the street in South-East Asia during summer, this is far from a deal-breaker, and would be happily forgiven if the food is worthwhile.
I love dumplings in all shapes and sizes, but Kimchi with Pork Dumplings ($13, 5pcs) has been one of my favourites ever since I first had it in Korea. And so, I was especially glad that these were enormous. Wrapped with a delicately translucent wrapper, these were stuffed with a savoury, and slightly spicy pork and kimchi mixture. They were super addictive, and as good as any I’ve had.
The Mandoo gained a bonus point in my books by offering up the Dumpling Sampler ($18, 6pcs), consisting of one of each dumpling/bun on the menu, allowing me to try everything without having to come back another 3 times.
They then proceeded to promptly lose that point, plus a dozen more, when I FOUND A METAL SCREW IN THE PORK BUN. Sure, the bun may have been fluffy, the meat and vegetable filling flavoursome, but almost cracking my back tooth on a piece of metal pretty much negated it all. The staff apologised profusely and provided a replacement as fast as they could muster, and took the price off the final bill, but not finding a screw in my bun in the first place would’ve been a lot better.
See? A METAL SCREW. Thank goodness it was only a small bite that I had taken or I probably would’ve swallowed it whole.
To my intense relief, the remainder of the meal was much more uneventful. The BBQ Galbi Pork Bun had a delightfully smoky flavour, whilst the Prawn and Pork Dumpling – stuffed with an entire prawn – was a close second favourite after the kimchi dumplings.
The Kimchi Pork Bun had a filling identical to the kimchi dumpling, except wrapped in fluffy steamed dough rather than the light skin of the dumpling. Likewise, the Pork Dumpling was the same as the pork bun in every way except the wrapper, though thankfully there was no screw this time around.
With the day being hot, and the restaurant stuffy, this seemed like a good opportunity to finally try the Spicy Cold Noodle Soup ($12). This may seem like an odd dish, especially when you first see the ice cubes floating in the soup, but one taste was all it took for me to understand why this was so popular.
The light and tangy soup, mixed through with a dollop of earthy gochujang, was intensely refreshing with just a hint of spice (though there is the option to get it spicier!). The fine, slippery sweet potato noodles retained their chewy, slurpable texture even in the cold soup, and really was just an utterly ideal dish for summer.
If it hadn’t been for the screw, I would’ve been rather fond of The Mandoo. It’s a nice little cheap and cheerful place to get your dumpling and noodle fix; not only are the flavours on-point, the portions were also quite generous. Whether or not I’d come back is something I’m still debating with myself, but I think I might be leaning towards no. The food here may be good, but it’s not the only place around that does mandoo and cold noodles, though it’s certainly the only place where I’ve found a foreign body in my food.
Rating: 11/20 – screwed over.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit