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Oct 21, 2009 04:27 PM

Manna Restaurant - Highly Recommended Homestyle Korean!!

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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  1. After reading that warm review, I'm ready to hike up to Toronto to eat at Manna right now, redearth! I'll make it a point to visit (and report back) next time I'm up that way -- hopefully in a few months.

    1. Great review and so heartfelt redearth. I just wish it wasn't so out of the way for me or we'd be going tonight!

      7 Replies
      1. re: Wil

        Are they open 7 days a week? What about lunch? It's really too bad that the location isn't ideal, but I'll try hard to get there, as I love kimchee and the thought of taking home a jar or two of homemade tangy goodness is a great lure.

        1. re: 1sweetpea

          I believe it is open 7 days a week, and is open for lunch. I had a phone number for it, but can't seem to find it right now. I'll post back if I do.

          1. re: Squiggles

            Found the phone number, thanks to Google Street View (it's on the sign). 416-233-7032.

          2. re: 1sweetpea

            Each time I've purchased kimchi at Manna to take home, Soo has given me the choice of a fresher or more fermented kimchi. I've opted for the fresher each time, as I always think that I'll have it in the fridge long enough for it to become more sour. It never seems to last that long, though! If you like it sour and tangy, her more fermented version will definitely fit the bill!

            1. re: redearth

              I am by no means a kimchi expert, but when I've made it, mine doesn't ferment properly inside of my fridge. I have to leave it out in a slightly coolish, dark place (i.e. the cellar) for about three or four days.

              1. re: cimui

                I've certainly had store-bought kimchi increase in sourness inside my fridge. I think that once the fermentation process starts, it doesn't want to stop. Of course, storing said kimchi in ideal fermentation conditions wouldn't hurt. Keeping it in the fridge might slow it down somewhat, but I think that the process would continue, regardless... So we don't get off-topic and have a new, seldom-visited thread started by over-zealous CH moderators, I have to confess that I have a batch of Manna kimchi in my fridge that I am "experimenting" with... I intend to keep it for at least a few weeks - I will inform all as to the changes in its composition.

                1. re: redearth

                  Haha. Nice tie-in.

                  Yeah, I think I was just momentarily addled by what you meant by "fresh kimchi": straight-from-the-cutting-board kimchi or kimchi that has fermented for a short while unrefrigerated. The former won't ferment in the fridge unless you let it sit out a while; the latter will keep going, you're right. And I'm guessing Manna sells the latter.... But only you can determine this with conclusive, scientific evidence! :)

        2. My wife and I have been frequenting Manna for years, though admittedly with a young baby in the house, we have not been there for a while. We have never had a bad meal there, and the owner always makes the experience enjoyable. We’ve brought many friends and family members there, and hope this rumour of closing proves to be untrue.

          Our standby dishes are the Pajun (seafood pancake) and the Be Bim Bop (rice). The owner is always helpful with suggestions and assisting us with navigating the menu. Last time we went I had a cold and she made me a SPICY beef soup that blew the cold right out of my head!! She is very generous with her sides and always has a new one to try. Her house Tea is also quite tasty.

          We will definitely be going again soon!

          1. Anyone have an address for this place? Can't seem to find anything fast on Google..

            2 Replies
            1. re: NovoCuisine

              4925 Dundas St W, Etobicoke.

              Dundas just West of Burnhamthorpe, just East of Kipling.

            2. Hmm, should go here for lunch and Chodang Soon Tofu for dinner. Might as well make a day out of it. :) Thanks for sharing!