For all its recent leaps and bounds away from culinary mediocrity, the Castro is still primarily a place people come to get inebriated. Mandu, website-less the Asian street food restaurant that has gone in where Barracuda Sushi used to be, seems to grasp this implicitly, and has constructed its menu accordingly.
[jump] This isn’t to damn Mandu with faint praise or knock Daniel Sudar’s kitchen in any way, but everything about it suggests that this is a place where people will go when they want to party hard. Sudar, who also runs the similarly pan-Asian Slurp a few blocks away, is cranking out $6-$16 small plates, everything from the usual chicken lollipops, Korean beef tacos and and vegetarian pot stickers (or “Man-du,” in Korean) to oseng oseng (wok-tossed green beans with garlic soy sauce) and chicken rendang, an Indonesian curry braised in coconut milk with chilies, candlenut, and ginger-like galangal. Everything is highly shareable.
A full liquor license there is not, but you’ll find a mostly-under-$40 wine list and a half-dozen fruity, faux-martini soju cocktails for $6.95. (I can already envision wide-eyed groups of eight tipsy friends goggling at the check and realizing how many of those they put away.) If you’re feeling splurge-y, there’s even a $145, 500-mL bottle of Kudoki Jozu “Pick Up Artist” sake, just one of over a dozen.
It’s spacious, it’s loud, and it’s a place to have fun. With the caveat that the very mention of Lime, the horrendous club-staurant that used to be next door to where Mandu is now, can be a trigger warning for some people, Mandu looks set to recapture Lime’s liveliness without the sight of people dashing to the gutter after bottomless mimosa power hour—until Mandu rolls out brunch service later this year, that is. Just because you’re having fun and getting wasted doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also eat well.
Mandu Asian Street Food, 2251 Market, 558-8567.