Considering the hundreds of restaurants in Koreatown, it’s any wonder that a restaurant on a main drag like Western Avenue or 6th Street would succeed. For tiny side street spots like Oh Ma Ni, which debuted in 2006, the odds would have to be far steeper. It’s a good thing that Eun Mi Lee and mother Koo serve some of the best Korean comfort food in L.A.
Blink and you’ll miss Oh Ma Ni, a hole in the wall in the truest (and best) sense of the expression. The small Korean restaurant hosts only five tables, with “decor” limited to light yellow walls hosting photos of Koo’s tantalizing food.
Yes, it’s possible to enjoy a simple bowl of noodle soup, with the noodles and beef broth carefully crafted in-house, but Oh Ma Ni is best experienced in a group. That way, it’s possible to split massive servings of supple house-made soondae (blood sausage) or sliced jokbal (pork trotter), to name just two specialties. The menu’s laser-focused, with simple variations on limited themes, which no doubt helps to deliver spot-on execution.
Banchan consisted of pungent kimchi, tender marinated eggplant, savory stems, crunchy bean sprouts and roasted green bell pepper strips.
Banchan varies little from visit to visit, with chewy seaweed strands, chile’d zucchini slices and thick-cut radish popping up during my second meal, joining roasted peppers with chewy dried fish.
Dak Kalguksu ($7.50) is one of L.A.’s best chicken noodle soups, made with fat house-made wheat noodles, zucchini and potato submerged in beef broth cooked for a full day. The finishing touch consists of umami-rich nori.
Mandutguk utilizes the same broth, but in this case, they arrived bobbing with huge, thin-skinned, North Korean-style mandu (dumplings) filled with minced pork, glass noodles and greens that burst into the broth, which the Lees litter with egg and nori.
Cheonggukjang ($8.99) consisted of a bubbling earthenware pot of “thick, wholesome” fermented soybean stew with creamy slabs of tofu, kimchi, chilies, and a scallion shower.
Dak Bulgogi ($12.99) featured spicy pan-fried, soy sauce marinated chicken tossed with gochujang. The chicken came on a sizzling, cast iron vessel with sweet onions to temper the spice.
Nothing like stir-fried Korean blood sausage on a hot L.A. day. Soondae Bokkeum ($19.99) featured supple slices of soondae (blood sausage) tossed with gochujang, sesame leaves, onions and (bonus!) tender strips of pig stomach.