Korean Chinese food for me can go two ways – a restaurant trying to diversify and doing neither cuisine well or in Cho Man Won’s case, where both the cuisines both shine together in loving harmony.
Cho Man Won is located behind the upscale looking O Dae San ( same owners) on Olympic Blvd. I literally got some pre-emptive meat sweats walking in, thinking I might have mistaken a dumpling excursion for Korean BBQ. Across the street apparently was another fusion restaurant that looked both scary and intriguing at the same time.
A nice partially outdoor patio with trademark flat screen televisions displaying live tweet feeds greeted me and my partner in crime.
As I was slightly late, the banchan had already hit the table and I was impressed by it’s quality. The Kimchi was fresh and pungent; the radish had a nice crunch and the pickled golden beet was provided good contrast. I mean this was really good kimchi, which I found really surprising.
I’m beginning to notice that kimchi quality is in no way correlated with anything else about a dining experience. I’ve had not so great stuff at Kobawaoo House which was a fantastic meal overall, and i’ve had so-so stuff at Jeon Ju (which is about 5 minutes from this place) which was another fantastic meal. Gamja-Gol is a really poor selection of banchan overall, but the kimchi was fantastic. Expect a Kimchi Confidential post soon.
The steamed dumplings (jjin mandu) themselves were really nice – brain shaped and stuffed with kimchi and pork they came out steaming. I thought the sauce on the side needed some doctoring but they were really pleasant and slightly spicy. Unfortunately upon my visit they were out of the goon mandu (fried dumplings) which I was eager to try.
The jjajangmyeon (black bean noodles) and jjamppong (spicy seafood noodle soup) were obligatory things to order here I was told. For the life of me I can’t remember what meat was in the black bean noodles, I think it might have been beef.
The black bean noodles I wasn’t extremely impressed with mainly because the look of the dish made me expect a depth a flavor similar to Japanese Curry but I found a rather one dimensional – kind of a gelatinous mess more like hangover food than lunch time fare. I’m pretty sure however this is the actual dish how it should be executed though it wasn’t to my liking.
The spicy noodle soup was really delicious, swimming with mussels and a great broth. It wasn’t quite as piping hot as I would’ve liked (big fan of spicy mussel aromatherapy, great for the pores) but the flavor was great, and the noodles well cooked. This was actually quite spicy which I found delightful.
This meal came to twenty dollars total, which is another reason why it is a huge win. The portion sizes are huge – more food arrived on the table than either of us could finish, the service was prompt and responsive, and the food was well prepared. All of the noodles here were certainly hand made, fresh, and substantial. I even heard a few weeks later from Sinosoul that my tweet / face was cycling through the flat screen tv’s. Brain shaped dumplings and five minutes of fame, i’ll take both.