I think we can all agree that there are not enough places in the world that offer unlimited food. And the places that do are usually pretty bogged down by endless salad bars and other assorted vegetables. Manna Korean BBQ in Culver City is not one of those places. Instead of concentrating on veggies, they have decided to concentrate on meats. For only 16.99, you get all you can eat meats. And these aren’t just generic grade D meats, these are a collection of short rib, brisket, pork belly, pork, chicken, spicy chicken and beef.
To get this, though, you have to play by the rules. Everyone at the table needs to participate in the all-you-can-eat or else they have to pay for it as well. The logic makes sense, but it also means you better not go if you don’t have hungry people with you. Also, you can only get three plates at a time. Again, this makes sense because these are some huge dishes of mean and no one wants to let any of that go to waste. And then there is one last thing to remember. It’s not so much a rule, but something you just have to know. You cook the food yourself. Some aren’t a big fan of this, but I love it, if for no other reason than if you are eating with boring people, you can keep busy with cooking and talking about cooking.
So before the meat comes, they bring out some Korean-style potato-scallion pancakes. They’re basically the Korean version of latkes and are quite tasty after being tossed on the grill for a few minutes. They also bring out some pickled foods like kimchi and radishes to go as the sort of sides with the meat. The only part of that I like is the delicious, moist rice paper that can be used to turn the meat into Korean-style taco.
Then comes the meat; the only thing that really matters. In comes in piles on plates and looks amazing even before it gets cooked. You get some snazzy tongs and start tossing the delicious dead animals on the grill. So here’s the scoop on the meats. These aren’t crazy-thin cuts like you get at Gyu-Kaku that turn to butter in your mouth, so they take a bit longer to cook. But once you get going, the wait time really goes away as meat keeps going back and forth. Of the meats, my favorite was their BBQ beef. They put some delicious sweet BBQ sauce on there that makes me wish every other meat could have it. Then comes their beef short ribs and their beef brisket. The short ribs are a little fattier and provide a great flavor for themselves, where the brisket doesn’t have a terrible amount of flavor, but is nice and thin and easy to cook. Plus, everything tastes good when dipped into their sauces.
The pork belly was a little disappointing, because although this is the meat used to create bacon, the god meat, it was missing all the other goodies that make bacon so great. Like salt. And smoke. And crack. Instead, the belly was pretty flavorless. The spicy and regular chicken are also a little bit tough for a place like this. Don’t get me wrong, I love my chicken and this is good chicken, but cooking it on these grills can be a major pain. Where beef can be undercooked and still be tasty and safe, undercooked chicken is slimy and can make you pretty ill (not like the Beastie Boys).
Although meat was certainly the best part of our dinner, we did get to witness an amazing event like none other. Apparently some people at a table nearby were celebrating a birthday at Manna. Big mistake. These poor people were pulled out to the middle of the restaurant and publicly humiliated. No, it wasn’t one of those weak public humiliations like stoning or stocks. Instead, the waiters whipped out a couple bottles of champagne, popped off the tops and sprayed that sweet alcoholic nectar all over the poor birth-people. It was a sight to behold and made me glad my birthday didn’t fall on that day.
I left Manna full of tons of tasty meat and one happy unvegan. If there is such thing as protein overdose, Manna Korean BBQ is the place to succumb to it.