Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Man Nam Korean Restaurant

Name: Man Nam Korean Restaurant
Location: 4010 Vestal Pkwy E, Vestal, NY 13850
Phone: (607) 770-0073
Cuisine: Korean/Sushi
Price: Around $10-$15 per person or more

Man Nam represents my first foray into Korean food, so take this review with a grain of salt. I don't know "bad" Korean food from "good" Korean food, nor can I speak to the authenticity of the dishes: I just know what tastes good to me. Keep that in mind for this one.

Man Nam is located on the Vestal Parkway at the former location of Port-O-Bagel, in the same building as KFC. It's a pretty good location since it's within short walking distance of the Binghamton University campus. The dining room is split into two portions. There are some smaller tables in the dining room to your right as you enter the restaurant, and a few larger tables straight ahead. It doesn't have what I would call great ambiance, but it's decent enough.

I first visited Man Nam about a year ago for dinner with a group of friends. On the recommendation of a friend, I ordered the Spicy Bulgogi. I found this beef dish to be just OK. It was a bit on the fatty, chewy side and something about the flavors seemed a little off to me. Granted, it was my first time in a Korean restaurant, so I had really no idea what it was supposed to taste like. I guess I liked the experience well enough, but it wasn't a place I'd have particularly missed if I never made it back.

Today, I decided to give Man Nam another chance, this time for lunch. I had heard about a lunch option they had called the Lunch Box Special which provided the opportunity to try a few different items for only $9. I went with this choice and opted to do take-out in lieu of eating there.

The Lunch Box I ordered consisted of miso soup, noodles, beef fried rice, teriyaki beef, various pickled vegetables (kimchi), and tempura veggies and shrimp. This was a huge amount of food, but it gave me the opportunity to try out a few different things and get a real sense of how I felt about Korean cooking.

For the most part, I thought the meal was very good. It started on a bit of a sour note with the miso soup, which I thought was bland and tasteless compared with similar (Japanese) soups I've had before. I elected not to eat the entire bowl, a rarity for me. The tempura vegetables and shrimp were tasty, if perhaps a bit too amorphous to the point where I couldn't tell what was an onion and what was a carrot. I think some things may have gotten fused in transit. I enjoyed the kimchi offerings, what I gather to be a staple of most Korean meals. The real winners were the fried rice, the cellophane noodles, and the teriyaki beef, all of which had nice flavor. In particular, the teriyaki beef was not at all fatty or tough like I had remembered the bulgogi. For only $9, I found the Lunch Box to represent solid value, given the amount of food it contained.

I am glad I gave Man Nam another chance. I enjoyed the food to the point where I can wholeheartedly recommend the Lunch Box to anyone interested in sampling Man Nam's offerings: just skip the soup. I am still not to the point where I can say that Korean cuisine is among my favorites, but I definitely have a deeper appreciation and fondness for it than I did a couple hours ago. As the only Korean restaurant in the Triple Cities, Man Nam is a place well worth seeking out.

Grade: B

Man NAM Korean Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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