I’VE ventured to all corners of Asian on my dining travels, but never had the chance to sample Korean cuisine.
The North East isn’t awash with Korean restaurants and you’ll have to travel to Newcastle to find a little slice of Seoul.
Tucked away in the cobbled Taylors and Tanners Court, near the Toon’s Chinatown, this hidden gem takes a little bit of finding, but is definitely worth the trek.
Decor is subtle, rather than in-your-face Oriental, but your ears will have to get to grips with energetic South Korean pop music.
Going Gangnam Style with your grub might take you into uncharted waters, with Korean’s favourite kimchi (fermented cabbage) not earning any love from me.
However, Mannaza’s menu covers a wide spectrum of dishes, complete with colourful pictures and the waitresses were happy to help guide us through.
We selected a mix of the familiar and the strange - pan fried chicken and vegetable dumplings (£4.90), sliced pork belly with red pepper (£8.50), seasoned raw beef strips with egg yolk and sliced pear (£7.50) and steamed rice with vegetables in a hot-stone bowl (£6.90) - and everything arrived at it’s ready, as is traditional with Asian dining.
Unusual first - the beef strips were a fantastic Eastern take on steak tartare, with rich egg yolk the perfect sauce, spilling over sweet slices of fruit and sublime strips of meat.
Pork belly should be rich and soft, with hints of the farmyard, but our pig had spent a little too long in the pan.
Our lightly-fried dumplings were portly and packed with salt-sour filling; the rice was an above-average side dish, which we were too full to do justice to.
Healthy eaters will be gladdened to hear that Korean cuisine tends to shun deep frying and everyone with mouths will be delighted by its wide range of tastes and textures, presented at Mannaza in a relaxed cafe environment.
The word Mannaza means bringing friends together, which should be all the reasons you need to give Korean a try.
Our meal for two, with jasmine tea and Hite Korean beer, came to £31.60.