Quite literally, the new (Korean) kid on the block (it opened on June 28th), Manna replaces Little Bangkok - a tiny Thai place on the corner of 10th and Irving. It's still small inside, but looks like it received a new coat of paint and somehow feels larger than the older restaurant. (I must admit that I might have frequented Little Bangkok only once, hastily ordering a lunch from their steam table one day, and don't quite remember the experience.)
We had spotted Manna the day before, gaily bedecked with balloons. We peered into the space, noted that it was full, and picked up one of the takeaway menus at the counter. Nothing too surprising, really: your usual standards of Bibimbap, Bulgogi, Japchae, Seafood Pancake... but there were some items that caught my eye - namely the Sulung Tang: beef and cow bone soup, and Dakdoritang: chicken stew with mixed vegetables in a spicy sauce.
And so we stopped in for a latish lunch on the 4th of July, since really - what could be more American than having a nice Korean meal on Independence Day? The staff had slipped menus underneath the glass-topped tables, and as far as I could tell, there was only one server and one individual staffing the register - a husband-and-wife team, perhaps?
Alas, neither the Sulung Tang nor the Dakdoritang was available; the kindly server seemed a little embarrassed and pointed me instead to Yuk Gae Jang (spicy beef soup) or the Spicy Seafood Stew. I chose the latter.
They appear to have a very limited set of banchan, but our server was quite assiduous in frequently offering to refill our plates (we must have had 3 refills of each!). From the upper left, counterclockwise, bean sprouts, crunchy with sesame and vinegar; blanched broccoli dressed with sesame oil; marinated fish cake, sweet and flat and firm; and house kimchee, a little sweet, a little hot, a little funky. In other words, perfect.
DD chose the Duk Bok Ki - sauteed rice cakes and fish cakes with spicy sauce. Delicious - the Duk, or Tteok, cooked perfectly - chewy with just a hint of firmness left (I'm not a fan of undercooked tteok - badly done, the rice sticks are hard rather than beguilingly sproingy). The sauce is spicy, with a touch of sweetness. Zucchini, carrot and fishcake make up the rest of the dish.
Because neither the Beef and Cow bone stew nor the Chicken Stew was available, I ended up with this dish - a typical Jjigae, made with gochujang, tofu, seafood, a smattering of vegetables and japchae glass noodles. It arrived roiling and boiling away in its earthenware pot, and it was completely satisfying. I asked for medium spice, and the dish contained the perfect amount for me - still enough to make my nose run and eyes tear us just the slightest bit.
In the Inner Sunset, the only other Korean option we have is Hahn's Hibachi, which leaves a lot to be desired (a little too bland and westernized?). One needs to schlep to Geary across the park, or possibly to Toyose in the Outer Sunset. Manna is appealing for its proximity to us (1 block away from our doorsteps) and for the price (our lunch for two, with rice, barley tea, 2 generously-portioned entrees and unlimited banchan) came out to $21 and change. The service: warm, swift and attentive.
All in all, the food is not necessarily mind-blowing, but strong and spicy and flavourful. It's a nice addition to our list of nearby, nonfussy, inexpensive take-out options for a weeknight.
Manna845 Irving St
San Francisco, CA 94122