|The thrill of the grill, or some such other rubbish pun|
Plus, don’t you think it would be a bit excessive... vain even, to have more than one blog? Kind of like having two cars sat on the driveway? I suppose I could’ve got a web banner that said “my other blog’s a food blog”? No, don’t think so. Better face facts; I’m a one blog kind of a guy. One-Blog Burns, that’s me.
Anyway, enough of this grim preamble; where have we actually been for this inaugural restauranty post? To Mannaza, a relatively new Korean restaurant, just next to Newcastle’s Chinatown, that’s where.
This was, I think, the fourth time I’ve been to this place, so at the risk of de-jeopardising the jeopardy, it’s safe to say we like it. We first happened upon it via Groupon, or some such voucher-type deal, but unlike so many restaurants that you visit by the dubious magic of Groupon and then wish you hadn’t bothered with, this place was offering up some genuinely interesting fare. Unfamiliar with Korean food, we really enjoyed our first experience of Kimchi (so much so that I turned one of our home-grown cabbages into it), had a completely delicious spring onion salad, and had bowls of very tasty rice dishes. My initial, highly ignorant, impression of Korean food was that it’s similar to Chinese, but without the gloopy MSG-laden sauces and with a considerable focus on fermented things. Great.
Since that initial visit the restaurant has expanded and a whole bunch of Korean BBQ-enabled tables have been installed, which is a most exciting development. Korean BBQ basically consists of plates of raw, sometimes marinated meats, fish and veg being brought to the table, which you then grill yourself on a central hotplate. I’m not quite sure how this fits with food hygiene legislation, but who cares, it’s great fun. We, or at least I, was initially concerned not to look like a damn fool in front of a restaurant full of what I assumed to be Korean BBQ pros, but things cooked pretty quickly as everything was sliced thin, so you can’t really go wrong.
We had a plate of thinly pounded beef rib-eye with garlic and sesame oil sauce and one of king prawn, squid, scallop and vegetables, most of which had been doused in something not dissimilar to Hoi Sin. I overcooked the first batch of beef, but the second lot to hit the grill came off juicy and tender. All the seafood was nice, with the scallop and squid, which had been cut into neat squares and scored before it reached us, being the best. Some of what I enjoyed the most were the vegetables that came with the seafood; nothing special, they were just mushrooms, peppers, beansprouts and the like, but hot from the grill and slathered in hoi sin, they tasted great. We supplemented this with the ubiquitous kimchi, providing as only it can a great spicy funk, a sweet and sour king prawn dish which was pleasantly light and not at all cloying, and a couple of pots of plain steamed rice. We were here on another voucher deal (I know, I know; cheapskates innit), but had we been paying our way this lot would have come to about £40, including a glass of very unspectacular house plonk each.
|Squid, scallops and peppers being cooked on what looks here like a small sun. Reality wasn't quite that dramatic.|
The whole BBQ thing sets this place a bit apart in Newcastle. Although you can have your food cooked in front of you at one of a couple of Teppen Yaki Japanese places in town, there’s only so many times I want to be offered the opportunity to catch an egg in a chef’s hat, and these places aren’t exactly cheap. Mannaza is good value, and cooking your own dinner is very convivial and fun; we’ll definitely be taking visiting friends here in the future. Plus, added bonus, the website and menu offer up a few prime examples for connoisseurs of Chinglish (Kenglish?). “Come and experience this Korean blast in town” indeed.
The only downer about the place, depending on your views on such things, is that they do have a flat-screen tele on the wall, belting out the latest offerings from the Korean hit parade. Korean pop is replete with high energy choreography, that’s for sure. Unfortunately, it is also currently chock-full of something I don’t fully understand called “Gangnam Style”, which, in our 80 or so minutes in the place, we must have heard four times. Not-keen style.