Dining Panel review: Small exterior hides big taste at Manna Wok

07/18/2012 1:36 PM

07/18/2012 1:36 PM

For me, Manna Wok is the perfect hole-in-the-wall restaurant. Located near the intersection of Harry and Oliver, this Asian and Korean eatery is in a teeny-tiny building that can hold no more than 36 people at a time. I have introduced many co-workers to this gem, and they often were scared to venture in solely based on the exterior appearance. But once inside, you will find a welcoming family-run establishment with walls that are covered from floor to ceiling with pictures of customers from the past 20 years.

The menu consists mainly of Korean food, but it offers several familiar Chinese and Asian dishes as well. For an appetizer, we got an order of mandu, which are Korean dumplings. They were fried triangles stuffed with a mixture of meat and veggies. Although a bit bland on their own, when eaten with the accompanying sweet and sour sauce, they were great.

For the main dish, I ordered the pork bul-go-gi, which comes with a choice of salad, egg drop soup or kimchee. I went with the kimchee, which is spicy fermented cabbage. I am not typically a huge fan of spicy food, but I was not overtaken by the kimchee. The pork bul-go-gi consisted of pieces of pork mixed with various vegetables and tossed in a sweet and savory sauce served with white rice. This well-balanced dish was perfectly cooked and has become a new favorite.

My husband went with the stone bowl bibimbap rice. The dish is served in a piping hot bowl with a bed of white rice, bean sprouts, rice noodles, beef and stir-fry vegetables. A raw egg is placed on top, and the heat of the bowl continues to cook it while you mix the ingredients together. Served with a bottle of tangy red sauce, this dish was impressive.

We both loved the white rice at Manna Wok. I am not sure how they can make something so simple have that much flavor, but they do.

Our only complaint with our meal was that the main course came out too fast. We were still enjoying our kimchee and mandu when it was served.

While Manna Wok may not seem impressive from the exterior, the restaurant will win you over with its exciting flavors and food.

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