Food Restaurant

I Choose You! Manpuku, My Favorite Casual Yakiniku Restaurant in Los Angeles

There are no dudes named Bubba or a “barbecue” out back because yakiniku is grilling (by you bud)

There are no smokers or barbecuers out back of Manpuku (ma’n-poo-koo), but there are individual grills at each table for you to grill your own food on. If any of that sounds familiar to you, it’s because Japanese yakiniku (yaki=grill, niku=beef) is influenced by Korean “BBQ” which Bubba knows is not barbecue either.

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“Love is a burning thing, and it makes a fiery ring. Bound by wild desire, I fell in to a ring of fire” – Johnny Cash (I also love the cover by Social D)

Think of yakiniku like tapas, or small plates where you can sample various cuts of meat to seafood. If that sounds good to you, Manpuku (manpuku means “pleasantly full/stomach”) is the best small chain of restaurants in  the Los Angeles area.

Are you the type of person who likes large hunks of cheap low-quality meat, or smaller cuts of quality meat (with a great personality, enjoys food, and is witty)

If you answered quality over quantity, Manpuku/Greg is for you. Congrats, read on, if not click here.

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U.S.D.A Prime Angus to Japanese wagyu (is rated above U.S.D.A. Prime). Image by Ganesh K.

Like an American steakhouse, Japanese yakiniku restaurants also offer up quality grades of meat, but Japanese restaurants differ by offering a wider range of cuts to specializing in highly marbled Japanese beef (wagyu).

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I don’t know how many times I have asked for medium rare, to only get it back as medium. Now that you’re in charge of the grill, that won’t be an issue. Image by Ganesh K.

Beef Marbling Scores:

  • U.S.D.A Prime: Select: 0-1, Choice: 2-3, Prime: 4-5 BMS rating
  • Australia: 0 (100-200) to 9 (1,100+) MSA rating
  • Japan: 1 (A1), 2 (A2), 3-4 (A3), 5-7 (A4), 8-12 (A5) BMS rating

The rating only reflects on the marbling, and not on the varying techniques employed by different regions of Japan, and producers in Australia, to the United States. All of these producers will create a final product that can differ in juiciness, tenderness, and flavor regardless of grade – if you want to learn about five different types of wagyu, click here.

You got to know how to work the grill right

I have to set you up for success, so I’m going to give out some basics on how to grill.

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Tontoro is pork jowl/cheek, but if you want to make it more marketable, you can tell people that it’s the same cut as Italian “guanciale.

I don’t get how so many people are missing out on eating cuts like tontoro because it has a firmness to it, but it has enough fat to make a very tasty and tender cut of pork.

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The key to grilling is a properly heated ring of fire. You will know that if you can’t put your hand about 6″s off of the grill for more than several seconds.

I remember a time when I was in Korea, and I grabbed the raw meat back off the grill with my hands (I hope I washed my hands) because the waitress immediately dumped all of the meat onto a cold grill. Don’t worry, my Korean friend apologized on my behalf, but I did that because I couldn’t speak Korean. If I could, I would have asked her for the tongs, but more importantly, I would have told her that is not how you grill meat or let alone cook.

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Grilling is simple, but with good quality ingredients, comes great responsibility to not abuse them.

If you have the grill properly heated, when the cuts are this thin, it will only take about a minute on one side, and barely another minute on the other.

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Your parents probably told you that your meat is not to be played with, so don’t be touching it all the time, just leave it be.

You will know when one side is done when you start to see it glisten although if you start to see a lot of smoke/flames, you just might have your grill a little too hot because you don’t want to char your meat.

Not just a slab of beef, but you can also eat pork, chicken, vegetables, to seafood all in one meal, a smorgasbord

A common American steakhouse will typically only offer up New York strip, tenderloin, filet mignon, rib-eye, to t-bone. Which are all  great cuts of beef, but once you try all those cuts at a yakiniku restaurant, along with a few other cuts you have never heard of, you will probably be making yakiniku into a weekly habit.

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At a steakhouse, you might feel pressured to do wine, but at Manpuku, don’t hold back on doing a pitcher or two of beer. If you feel conscientious about it, feel free to drink with your pinky finger up to compensate.

This is my weekly spot to go to, especially on Fridays after work with a coworker (Ganesh).

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The shrimp is already dead, so don’t think you have to kill it with fire. Fire is your friend.

Really lean meats like seafood, chicken, to cuts like filet mignon are ruined if you over cooked them. You’ll know that when you cross that line because your food will turn out tough, dry, and chewy.

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There’s not a single soup at Manpuku that I don’t like.
  • Beef: filet, short rib, rib cap, rib-eye, skirt, tri-tip, tripe, tongue, intestine, to liver.
  • Pork: cheek, sausage, and belly.
  • Chicken: breast and chicken leg.
  • Seafood: squid, shrimp, green mussels.
  • Vegetables: shishito peppers, asparagus, mushrooms.
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If you’re on a budget or taking the family out with a growing teen, you might not survive 4 to 5 orders of short rib at $24.50 per order. If that is the case, I suggest the chicken leg which is only $6.50.

Not everything needs or has to have a dipping sauce although these are the suggested sauce pairings. Manpuku will typically provide you the appropriate dipping sauce although some locations will differ (you might have to request the ones below):

  • Manpuku’s soy sauce: beef sashimi with just soy sauce and grated garlic, or soy sauce, sliced onion, and wasabi. All the other beef dishes really don’t need a dipping sauce, but you can use the soy sauce, garlic, and wasabi (any combo).
  • Sesame oil and salt: grilled beef tongue
  • Yuzu kosho (sauce): tontoro (pork cheek), pork belly, and chicken to seafood such as shrimp although for shrimp I suggest a squeeze of lemon.
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Wagyu starts at $10.50 for the “finger meats” to the rib-eye which will set you back $32.50 per order.

I can’t believe Manpuku is bothering to market their wagyu as “Kobe style” when they should be pushing the specific wagyu that they are selling – I think they were doing Miyazaki at one point although they may have switched to SRF (Snake River Farms)? which would explain the Americanized approach to marketing (going with perpetuating stupid).

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Please, whatever you do, do not overcook the wagyu.

Manpuku just recently, I think as of last year finally did a website and created a social media presence for Manpuku. Piror to that, there was nothing, but I’m glad they did because they are one of the best Japanese restaurant groups in all of L.A. (probably my favorite).

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I don’t time my cooking times, but I bet I cook thin cuts like this for less than a minute per side.

Wagyu should be cooked medium rare, and if you are afraid of the red liquid, don’t be. The red liquid is what gives meat its red color which is myoglobin, not blood.

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A “deconstructed” sukiyaki which is composed of a very nicely marbled beef, a sweet soy-sauce based sauce and a raw egg (and they throw in a little rice ball).

Now on to the fear of raw eggs. In Japan raw eggs are eaten all day, everyday, but in the U.S., it was several decades ago that Rocky Balboa was waking up early in the morning to down five raw eggs to start his day off. Nowadays, people have peanut allergies to being sensitive to or afraid of gluten, to foods with hard sounding syllables.

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It’s all because of you (chicken producers) I’m feelin’ sad and blue that I can only eat raw Jidori eggs at Manpuku with their wagyu sukiyaki.

If you eat raw fish, tartare, or carpaccio, you have to try raw beef the Japanese way.

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There are two things I order as appetizers are wagyu tongue sashimi $12.50 (pictured above) and wagyu otoro sashimi $13.50 (pictured below).
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Wagyuotoro” sashimi $13.50

The secret to the perfect beef sashimi is in the details from the condiments of grated garlic and wasabi, but also the thinly sliced onions to the type of soy sauce they use. In the past, Manpuku had used a shoyu (soy-sauce) from the Ehime prefecture, but I’m not sure if they still do.

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Wasabi is a perfect match with marbled cuts of beef, it cuts the fattiness to let the savory flavor come through.
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That soup on the left is one of Manpuku’s signature dishes and it is a Korean soup called yukke jan which is a slightly spicy soup that contains beef, veggies, and tofu, all for $7.50.
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Prime rib-eye yukke (in Korean “yukhoe”) tartar with a Jidori egg yolk $10.50.

Raw foods are often associated with sushi and the Japanese, but raw meats are eaten all over the world from Slovakia, Sweden Finland, France, Ethiopia, Italy, Chile, Korea, Turkey, Levant (Eastern Mediterranean), to the Hmong people.

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As a kid, I despised eating cooked liver, and now I love raw liver sashimi. Now I’m pissed when it’s not available.

Raw liver is so damn good, and I would say it is my favorite or top two to three things at Manpuku. I like it because the texture is almost like a firm jello with a crispness to it, but when it’s dipped in sesame oil and salt blend and eaten with sliced onions, it is one of the best dishes at a yakiniku restaurant.

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Onto the cuts that most consider as just “meat.”

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This looks like prime short rib or jo kalbi.

This is what you’ll order if you’re just looking for “meat.”

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The grill designs differ at a few locations.
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I know that you flick that piece of parsley off the top of your steak, but these salads are worthy of your attention. The wakame (a type of seaweed) salad is a good place to start $7.5

Do your prostate a favor and eat more greens.

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I learned to make Manpuku’s signature cabbage salad at home because I like it that much, $7.5

Vegetables are not an afterthought in the vast majority of Asian restaurants because if you eat Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, to Korean food, they all have vegetables mixed in with most dishes.

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More pig cheek porn, oh baby, all for $9.50
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It’s available either salted or with yuzu.
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Comtom (or kkori gomtang in Korean) is the oxtail soup, $8.50
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Ishiyaki (hot stone pot) garlic rice with pickles is sooooo damn good. It’s $8, so I try to stretch it out for two, but I would rather have one to myself.
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Bubba loves shrimp, 5-pieces for $11.50

Bubba does know how to barbecue shrimp, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it. There’s uh, shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep-fried, stir-fried. There’s pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich. That- that’s about it.

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All you need for the shrimp is a squeeze of lemon after you have grilled it.
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Negi shio is Manpuku’s signature sliced and salted beef tongue with Tokyo onion. $12.5 to $14.
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Image courtesy of Manpuku/Take-5 International.
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There’s short rib, rib cap, rib-eye, skirt steak, tri-tip, but I love me some beef tongue. The wagyu toro tongue, $19.50.

I’d say beef tongue is probably my favorite cuts, so I’m glad Mexican restaurants have lengua taco’s (along with tripas and cabeza).

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One of the most tender cuts of beef that you will ever eat is a tongue (gyutan).

If you eat “meat,” you’re eating muscle. The heart, the tongue, thighs, and the ass/hindquarters is all muscle which btw, Americans eat a lot of ass than any other cut in the form of rump, beef round, ground round (hamburger meat).

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Don’t burn your tongue, hahahaha

Stodgy steakhouses with a la cart creamed spinach are cool if you don’t mind paying $30-$70 for a slab of beef, and $8 to $12 per side. Although, if you’re looking for a little more casual of a spot that is also great for dates where you and Bubba can enjoy some grilled meat, Manpuku is your place.

Locations

Manpuku locations will have menu’s that will differ slightly, so I’ll point out some of the differentiating details.

West Los Angeles
(Sawtelle Japantown caters to a Japanese and diverse crowd)
2125 Sawtelle Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90025
(310) 473-0580

Torrance
(One of the best locations because they cater to a large Japanese clientele)
1870 W. Carson St.
Torrance, CA 90501
(424) 271-7830

Costa Mesa
(My go to location when I lived in Newport)
891 Baker St.
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
(714) 708-3290

West Hollywood
(The newest location)
8486 W 3rd St.
Los Angeles, CA 90048
(323) 847-5061

Website

www.manpukuus.com

Menu

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The menu is subject to change.

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