First Look: Mokomandy

Like many first-time restaurateurs, Thaddeus Kim—whose mother is from Louisiana and whose father is from Korea—channeled the foods of his family when developing his new place in Sterling. The result is Mokomandy, where both Cajun and Korean dishes share menu space but rarely intersect. As unlikely as the pairing seems, they aren’t so odd a match—both are heavy on pork, rice, and pickled produce. And sometimes they’re surprisingly complementary: Spicy Korean ingredients are a good counterpoint to rich, cream-based Southern cooking.

The kitchen is strongest with small plates, starting with a long roster of pickles and panchan, Korean snacks sized like tapas. Fiery kimchee and a spicy slaw are good with the Asian dishes, such as ssam—lettuce cups of rice and marinated meat (the chicken is best)—and the thin slices of soy-soaked petit filet called bulgogi.

Louisiana-inspired options, such as smoky jambalaya with pig cracklings or deviled eggs garnished with a matchstick of bacon, come most naturally to chef Daniel Stevens. Cocktails—a Sazerac rethought with coffee syrup, a caipirinha with cherry syrup—are excellent.

The name Mokomandy is a combination of “modern,” Korean, and Mandy, Kim’s mother’s name. In designing the interior, Kim took inspiration from the first of those: A minimalist aesthetic sets off pale wood against an electric-red wall that frames an open kitchen. The look feels sleek for the strip-mall locale, but then Mokomandy is a study in the unexpected.

This article appears in the December 2010 issue of The Washingtonian.