Watch out Seoul, there’s a new sheriff in town, and he’s brought a big bad smoker with him. Owned and run by Jeff Kang, previously of Wildfire, Manimal is the the latest American BBQ restaurant to set up in Itaewon. This review is coming to you straight off the press, as they only opened for soft launch a mere 5 days ago.
The wood and distressed metal styled restaurant is of ample size, with an open kitchen and plenty of big wooden tables for you to gnaw those bones on. While the restaurants most prized possession, the big black smoker, gets its own special little room. The smoker is what sets Manimal apart from most of the other BBQ joints in town, this one is fed with oak, instead of electricity to achieve pure BBQ goodness. Owner Jeff diligently feeds it all night long to give his meat the edge, and I think it’s certainly proved to be a sacrifice well made. I, along with a precious few movers and shakers, was invited to a little pre-launch before they opened, and then I went again on the weekend with a few friends to check out the soft launch.
Before I can even address the meat, I must of course discuss the cocktails. The cocktail menu was designed by my favourite Seoul bar tender Ray – Oh, so I knew they were going to be good. The “Boozy Boardwalk” (8,800) is an Absolut vodka spiked lemonade. Deliciously lemony, it was pure sweet and sour goodness, they also have strawberry and blueberry versions too. Along with the lemonades, I also tried the “I shot the Sheriff” (9,800). It is Ray’s take on an Arnold Palmer, bourbon and tea never tasted so smooth, you could probably drink a pitcher of this one without even noticing, at least until you tried to stand up. Lastly, my probable favourite, was the “Pretty Women” (9,800) a tropical tea concoction. It’s sweet and fruity in all the right places, and bound to please the palette of fruity drink lovers everywhere.
On to the meat. The brisket (16,900 for 200g) was the stand out for me, tender and melt in the mouth it’s by far the best I’ve ever had, it almost put me in mind of that wonderful pastrami I ate in New York. I’m usually all about the pulled pork, but for me the Manimal brisket takes the edge, fantastic juicy pieces of heaven, even the fat tasted good, which for me always signals a well cooked meat, no one likes chewy uncooked fat.
The other stand out for me was the chicken (12,800), it was just so juicy and tender, and the barbecue sauce coating was divine, sweet sticky goodness, you should not miss this. One small irk is the meat doesn’t come with a side, those are extra, I realize meat is pricey but I think they need to to at least have something else on the plate besides the meat.
The sides were a bit of mixed bag. The shining star for me is definitely the Chipotle Lime Potato Aalad(3,800), all kinds of limey goodness, it was super special. The Spicy Mac & Cheese (6,900) I’m not sure about, I think it needs a bit more cheese and a bit more spice. The Apple Celery Coleslaw (2,900) is enjoyable though, the sweet and sour of the apple really helped cut through the fat of the meat. They are also still working on their corn bread recipe so I’ll be interested in seeing how that one pans out.
As mentioned before, they are newly opened so still on the soft launch phase, so go and pay them a visit and let them know what you think. Overall I loved Manimal, and am thrilled to have another BBQ joint in town, especially since Linus always has a monumental queue, though I don’t think it will be long before this place is the same, so go give it a try before the Churro Mafia find it.
Manimal is located at 2F, 455-33 Itaewon, Seoul. To get there take a train to Noksapyeong station then use the lift (elevator) next to 7-11 to exit the station. Turn around and go up and over the bridge, exiting on the right hand side. Walk straight and follow the road around, Manimal is on the second floor opposite Coreanos, and Berlin. For more information you can call them on 02-790-6788 or check out their facebook page.