My brother and his girlfriend were in town from Minneapolis, and they don’t always get good Korean food out there. I told him there was a small quick Korean cupbap place that opened in Odenton, and said he’d be interested in checking it out.
Cupbap is growing in popularity in Korea, they are similar to our rice bowls in the US, but they are filled with Korean bbq, vegetables (raw or pickled), kimchi, and a couple of sauces on top. Located off of Annapolis Road in Odenton, somewhat hidden on the side of a shared building on a small business strip, sits K-Manna. The inside was small with some counter seats along the perimeter and two large picnic style tables. The screens displayed the menu with a variety of Korean bbq choices in cupbaps, boxes or bibimbap styles.
We went to the counter to place our order. I ordered a beef galbi (short ribs) box ($15.99) and a chicken cupbap ($8.79) to go for my husband. My brother ordered the jeyuk (spicy pork) bulgogi box ($12.99) and his girlfriend ordered the egg and beef bibimbap ($10.99).
The décor was bright, I liked the bright orange they used for the walls. As we sat and chatted, our orders came out. The presentation of the boxes were simple with rice, your selection of marinated protein, and some cucumber kimchi. On the side, there was some vegetable tempura and a piece of bread tempura with a special mayo based sauce.
I was intrigued by the tempura selection so started with that. The tempura was cooked very well, the batter was light, not too oily, and the carrots and potato slices were hot and soft. The tempura bread was surprisingly not soggy, soft on the inside with a crunchy outer shell, it just melted as you bit into it. I thought it added some amusement to the traditional tempura. When dipping the tempura in the mayo sauce, I felt it seemed right, the creaminess of the mayo worked well with the crunchy tempura. It reminded me of eating frites in Belgium and dipping them in aioli.
As I finished my assortment of tempura, I went into my galbi box. The galbi was hot as if it had come off the grill. I thought the galbi was saucy and a bit sweet for my taste as compared to galbi I grew up eating. The marinade was good and the pieces of short ribs were plentiful and tender.
My brother commented that the portion and size of the short ribs was what he wished he could have in Minneapolis. The Korean rolled egg omelet were tasty, but I thought the pieces were on the thinner side as compared to how my mom made them. My brother felt the spicy pork was not very spicy, but he liked his tender pieces of pork and well sautéed vegetables. His girlfriend had the bibimbap, but was confused as to why the rice was served on the side rather than in the bowl. She felt there was too much lettuce which was overpowering the whole bibimbap and would have rather liked her vegetables pickled or lightly sautéed rather than raw. She felt it was like eating a salad with a side of rice. She thought the portion size of the beef and the fried egg on top were the best parts since the seasoning on the beef was great and the egg was perfectly cooked with the runny yolk.
When I got home, I had my husband try his chicken cupbap. He liked the cupbap idea and enjoyed his spicy chicken with rice which reminded him of the popular burrito bowls, but he was not a fan of the mayo based sauce. He said he could have done without it, but the overall cupbap was delicious and he would get it again.
K-Manna reminded me of a Hawaiian plate lunch place I’ve eaten in Hawaii, but instead of Hawaiian food, they served several Korean comfort favorites. I liked that everything came out hot and made to order. Some improvements could be made, such as making the pork marinade a little bit spicier, perhaps consider making the galbi marinade not as sweet, making the egg omelets a little bit thicker, and putting the rice in the bibimbap bowl rather than on the side. For the most part, we had a good dining experience in this cute little joint, and would consider going back. If you are looking for some fast casual Korean food, this is the spot to check out.
If you go
WHERE: 1668 Annapolis Road, Odenton
HOURS: Monday – Saturday 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.; Sunday - Closed
OWNER: Mr. Song, Mr. Min
PRICE: $1.29 - $15.99
CREDIT CARDS: All major credit cards
RESERVATIONS: Not needed