Manna Korean BBQ
4228 Convoy Street R210
San Diego, CA 92111
When I was in Southern California a couple weeks ago to mourn the loss of my cousin, I had the opportunity to go down to San Diego and spend time with good friends. One of those friends had never had Korean barbecue before, much to the amazement of a mutual friend and myself. After several casual chats about going to an all-you-can-eat (AYCE) Korean barbecue place, I finally decided to gather my friends and consume an unhealthy amount of delicious grilled meat.
I had never been to Manna before, but it has be heralded as one of the best Korean restaurants in San Diego, so we had to go there. We went for a Sunday lunch, but luckily just before the crowds started rushing into the restaurant. While the policy of the restaurant is to only seat people when everyone in the party has arrived, the hostess sat my friend (who hadn’t had Korean barbecue before) and I a few minutes before our mutual friend arrived as she sensed the crowds rushing in soon.
Once we sat down, we were given a menu of multiple all-you-can-eat options, some with very fancy and interesting seafood options of up to $40 a person. Since we really only needed a basic, but good, introduction to Korean barbecue for my friend we opted for the cheapest all-you-can-eat option at $20 a person. We then selected our meats: bulgogi (marinated thinly sliced beef), thinly sliced brisket, pork belly, and galbi (marinated beef spareribs).
As we eagerly anticipated our plates of meat to grill, we were served with complimentary banchan (little snacks). These banchan included sauteed spinach, cucumber kimchi, napa cabbage kimchi, pickled daikon, mung bean noodle salad, potato salad, and marinated beans. Nearly all of the banchan were spectacular, with the mung bean noodle salad and spinach being particular favorites of our group. The salad they gave us was good as well, though may have needed some extra dressing.
After about 10 minutes or so, the meat started to arrive. First came the brisket and pork belly. The brisket was pretty good, and complimented very nicely to the sauce dip we had for it. The pork belly was decent as well, albeit could have used a little more seasoning, even after our group had already seasoned with a little salt and pepper. The bulgogi was wonderful, having a marinade that was succulent without being overwhelming. The galbi was fantastic and flavorful as well, with some parts just falling off the bone after we grilled it. Of course, there was so much meat that a hefty combined effort from the three of us still failed the finish all the meat as we ended with some uncooked bulgogi.
Thankfully, our servers did not judge our failure, but instead were rather pleasant and warm. They regularly filled our water carafes and helpfully turned the meat over the cook faster when we were busy shoveling already done pieces of meat into our mouth. They also pleasantly refilled several banchan plates and were even kind enough to offer a second grill top late in our lunch. Unfortunately, given that we were defeated in our attempt to eat all the meat, we politely declined the new grill top.
All in all, this was one of the best Korean barbecue experiences I have ever had. While it’s not quite the cheapest option around in the highly competitive Korean restaurant scene in Southern California, it is definitely a vanguard of quality for San Diego Korean barbecue joints. My friend had a great first time eating Korean barbecue and I was definitely happy to have taken him here instead of the cheaper places down the street.