In the miniature "Little Korea" that lies between Kipling and Islington along Dundas Street, there exists a little restaurant that until recently had not been discovered by me. Now it has, and since discovering this restaurant, I have been back at least twice a week, and my fridge is now constantly stocked with some of the most delicious homemade kimchi that I have ever had.
Run, do not walk, to try this place out.
I say this because I overheard a conversation that the owner and chef, Soo, was having with one of her regular customers, and it would appear that the restaurant is not doing as well as she might like. If Manna were to close, this would be a real shame, as Soo produces some of the best homestyle Korean food that I have had the pleasure to try.
Trust me when I say that she cooks with love and passion, and you can taste it in her food. Almost everything she serves she makes herself, from the spicy sauce to the kimchi, and everything between - all of it is excellent and obviously made with love. She takes a lot of pride in her food, and it shows. She stresses that she does not use MSG, ever.
We have tried the Galbi (excellent; tender, savoury and sweet - definitely one of the best versions of this dish I've tried), the Yuk Gae Jang (beef, glass noodles, kosari, and vegetables in a spicy, beefy broth - again, one of the best versions of this dish that I've tried), the Bi Bim Bap, the Soon Tofu (which, although the tofu is not made in house, easily rivals Chodang's version), the Mandu (great dumplings, with very delicate, slightly chewy, and crispy wrappers), the Seafood Kal Gook Su (mild, slightly thickened, very savoury broth with a good amount of seafood and knife-cut wheat noodles - I was surprised by how tender the bits of octopus were in it), the Cheongukjang Chiggae (fermented bean paste stew - hearty, spicy, with a distinct fermented aroma and flavour - delicious), and the Yukkae Jang Kuk (beef stew). Everything, and I mean this sincerely, was excellent, and I would not hesitate in ordering it again. I am now determined to try everything on her menu - I will let you know when I succeed.
The banchan that is included with the meal is also very good, and usually includes sprouts, kimchi (both cabbage and turnip), vermicelli with vegetables in a black pepper and soy sauce, a potato dish, and glazed soybeans.
Her kimchi is perhaps the best I've had, and she sells it in containers to go, as well. We've gone through three containers of it already, in the three weeks since we've discovered Manna. She also makes a delicious Go Chu Chang (sweet and spicy sauce) that you can buy containers of to take home.
Everything about Manna, from the food to the cluttered kitchen, embodies the essence of soulful, home cooking. I highly recommend it. Please, Chowhounders, support this fantastic restaurant that, unfortunately, through no fault of its food, certainly, seems to be facing imminent closure. I eagerly await your reviews.
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