My friends and I have been wanting to go to Man Ri Sung for quite awhile now. I think it was brought up over 6 months ago but for some reason or another, we just never got around to it. Someone sent the picture of the ad to all of us and while I couldn’t read any of it, it wasn’t hard to convince me. I mean, the ad had me at “Duck Feast”. I mean, they could’ve just said they serve duck but feast tells me this is no ordinary meal, ye mortals. There’s even a mandatory two hour advance reservation for the feast so they can make sure they have ducks ready for you. As you can see in the picture above, they are not open on Wednesdays.
Speaking of terrible pictures, in my haste to get out the door that day, I forgot to bring a real camera so I only had my iPhone. That isn’t to say that the iPhone 4 isn’t a very good and capable camera…just that looking at some of these, I realize how I’m totally awful at using a shutter release that’s on a screen where I’m also using my fingers to poke at and focus. Doesn’t change the blog post…but just thought you should know that your eyes don’t need a new prescription.
Man Ri Sung occupies a small restaurant space near the Ackroyd Save-On-Foods in Richmond, which now apparently a Pricesmart. Sadly, this same spot was once one of my favorite restaurants in Richmond that served tan tan noodles (noodles with a meat and peanut soup) for only $1.99 a bowl and some equally incredible deals on lunch combos. It was decent food at a price that could not be beat anywhere in the city…a deal so good that in the early days, most people who knew about it wouldn’t tell anyone for fear that demand would either increase prices or wait times. For some reason or another, they moved and that new place isn’t around anymore either so I was hoping for something amazing would sprout from that location.
The restaurant seats maybe around 40 people, 50 tops. It’s recently renovated and clean but otherwise looks like every other Asian restaurant in town. It’s a little cramped but not too uncomfortable. The staff are friendly and quick but don’t speak English fluently. They get enough to do their job well but you’re going to have to make an effort here. Luckily, they sort of know people come for the duck feast so ordering isn’t a chore. Actually, now that I think about it, I don’t remember if they speak Korean or Mandarin. I assume since this is a Korean restaurant but there’s a lot of Chinese influence as well since this is a bit of a mash-up of Korean cuisine and Peking duck.
Although not $1.99, the $58.95 duck feast is actually surprisingly good value since it’s meant to be split amongst four. It’s divided into three courses, which is slightly different from the usual two with Peking duck. Usually at Chinese restaurants, Peking duck is served first in a wrap dish with the crispy skin and then as…another wrap dish with the meat mixed with veggies, enveloped in lettuce leaves. At Man Ri Sung with the Korean interpretation of Peking duck, the first dish is a wrap but instead of just the skin, you get the meat of the entire duck.
The duck is carved tableside by Chef Lee (well, in our case, he had to do it further away because we were seated at one very long table), ensuring that each duck is prepared fresh. I’m sure pre-slicing them onto platters ahead of time would save a few minutes but then it wouldn’t be as tender and juicy. You can tell Chef Lee is dedicated to his craft and wants people to enjoy his food. Unfortunately, he doesn’t speak very much English but seems like a friendly enough guy. He said a few words and gave more than a few smiles at the end of the meal.
The duck meat is moist and rich. Being a duck, it’s going to have fat but the meat didn’t seem excessively fatty. There’s a thin layer between the lean meat and the crispy skin which just adds more flavor. You get a heck of a lot of meat as well. We had 12 people at the table and there were still a few pieces left when we got to the last courses…although none left by the end of the night.
Some assembly is required with this dish as while eating the meat by itself is probably already delicious, making these little pockets of awesomeness makes it even better. Take one of these wraps, slather on a little sweet hoisin sauce and stick a little green onion salad in there with your duck and there you have it.
These are just fantastic. I could’ve eaten this all day long. The sweetness of the sauce, the sharp, crisp bite of the green onions along with the tender meat is just a killer combination. I tried the same thing with a little hot sauce instead of the hoisin…also awesome.
Along with your duck wraps, you’ll have a table full of standard issue Korean side dishes. As is often the case, I wasn’t entirely sure if we just had dozens of different ones or a bunch of a few of them. From what I could tell, there were some marinated potatoes, kimchi, bean sprout salad and marinated seaweed. There may have been others…they were probably just camouflaged amongst the others.
The duck wings are included alongside the sliced of duck meat. I don’t think anyone else gave these a shot since they looked dried up and sinewy but I gave one a try. The tip of the wing was crisped to the point that the bones were brittle and crunchy enough to just eat. The meat on the other sections was chewy and almost impossible to tear off the bones. I don’t know what these were for but apparently not for eating. If I had teeth like a velociraptor, then I might’ve had a chance.
Next to arrive was the Japchae, which is a pan-fried potato noodle dish. It wasn’t bad. Nothing out of the ordinary here. The noodles were cooked well…I’ve had japchae where the noodles are just falling apart but this was pretty good. Not a whole lot of ingredients in there but we did just polish off a couple pounds of duck.
For the last dish, you have a choice between a duck hot pot or…duck gruel. Now, the “gruel” is usually called porridge or congee (“jook” if you Chinese). I’m not sure why they decided to go with the Oliver Twist word for it but whatever works, I guess. Since we had several orders at our table, we could try both.
The congee is a thick rice porridge made with brown rice, duck meat, green onion and red dates. It’s got a nice, slow-cooked flavor and nice bits of duck in there. The broth is darker and richer than I’m used to with most Chinese congee but delicious.
The hot pot is full of duck meat, veggies and what appear to be thick, hand-cut noodles simmering in a soup. Unfortunately, the noodles were a little too soft and overcooked but the soup was great. During a cold winter, this would be a perfect thing to have at the table.
Of the two, I think I’d prefer the “gruel” but if those noodles were nice and bouncy, it might’ve gone the other way.
I really can’t imagine anyone that wouldn’t like this meal at Man Ri Sung. Even with HST and tip, it still comes out to less than $20 a person and it’s just a ton of good food. It’s a fun, interesting and most importantly, delicious meal to share with some friends, maybe with a couple bottles of soju. It isn’t mind-blowing but you do get quality and quantity for a very good price. Unless you’re a nuts or a vegetarian, you really shouldn’t miss this one.