This is truly a neighborhood gem, with its cozy vibes, and great atmosphere. But the food will really make you rethink your current dining choices. Manna Café is just that good.
Manna is food, according to the Bible, an edible substance which God provided for the Israelites during their travels in the desert during the 40-year period following the Exodus and prior to the conquest of Canaan.
I came to their grand opening and met owner Jonny Kalmanson and his partner/brother in-law; Sommelier – Isaac Anzaruth. It’s truly a family affair with Isaac’s father Israh there as well, and part of the business. Isaac also has a wine import export company called Alloro Vino. So, with his broad knowledge of wine, you are going to get some beautiful pairing possibilities. Their grand opening was so nice, and I was able to taste some delicious fare. The items were off their current menu: Small Plates – Crazy Wife – Chicken Wings with fish sauce caramel, chili, and basil. Smoked Salmon Deviled Eggs with horseradish, and smoked trout row. Pasta: “Esquite” Mac and Cheese, with roasted corn, Fiscalini cheddar, jalapenos, and corn puree. Plates: Herb Roasted Brisket with izakaya mashed potato salad. Desserts: Chocolate Espresso Mousse with whipped cream. The takeaway for me was their “Esquite” Mac and Cheese, that really got me excited. So, I had to come in and taste their other menu items that I did not try at their opening.
It’s housed in a brand-new building across from CBS studios and The Grove/Farmers Market, in the Fairfax District. It’s really an old Jewish area that has now emerged as a hipster, artsy section of Los Angeles. The architectural elements are both organic and modern. With lots of wood, modern wood picnic tables, turquoise chairs, orange outside umbrellas, low hanging GE type vintage light fixtures, earthy colors, but with a very comforting dining area. You can tell that much thought was put into the design, and what would fit in this already established business community.
The gal sitting next to me, Olivia, lives close by and just says that their Vanilla Latte is the best she’s ever had. She was with her gorgeous French bulldog Gordy. She had their watermelon salad, which she just loves. Manna Café is very pet friendly, they just love anyone who comes with their beloved fur baby.
Here’s what I tried:
Warm Arugula Salad, with braised artichokes, brown butter, vinaigrette, parmesan, and crispy sage. This salad is so delicious, with its perfect marriage of ingredients. The braised artichokes are very abundant, and they add some terrific texture as well as flavor to this must have salad. Manna’s portions are huge, you will not go away hungry.
Pasta Bolognese, with beef ragu, baby spinach, and cherry tomatoes. I make my own Bolognese sauce, so I know what it takes to make a good sauce. In this delectable sauce they use both dried and raw beef as well as carrots, with large pappardelle noodles, onions, chicken liver, and cream. It’s a comfort menu item at its finest. I would order this scrumptious pasta dish every time.
Eggplant and Mushroom parmesan, with thin sliced portobello mushrooms, roasted eggplant, tomato, and garlicky breadcrumbs. This is very rich and hearty, and makes you remember your Italian grandmother’s hearty tomato gravy. The presentation is very pleasing to the eye, with the portobello mushroom placed in the middle of the iron skillet, right from the oven to my table.
The Manna Burger, with herbed wagyu, lettuce, ripe tomato, brie, smashed avocado, sweet roasted onions, salt, and vinegar chips. The secret to this burger is their remarkable garlic aioli dressing. The burger is huge with all these creative accoutrements. The large piece of brie and the chips are very innovative. I don’t think I’ve ever had a burger with these types of condiments. Another fantastic menu item.
Roasted California Halibut in Parchment, with zucchini blossoms, and lemon caper. This looks like an art piece that belongs in a gallery. But once it’s in your mouth you too will be completely surprised. There are so many flavors to take in. The fish is cooked to perfection, with amazing garlic croutons, just simply wonderful.
Prime Hanger Steak, with tom yum mushroom, and green peppercorn vinaigrette. The tom yum mushrooms will blow your hair back, and the steak is super tender. The green peppercorns just pop in your mouth. If you’re a meat eater, then you must try this dish.
Lemon Verbena Crème Brulee, incredibly refreshing and delightful. The consistency of this dessert is so precise, its thick and gorgeous.
White Chocolate Tiramisu, with organic cocoa. I have had many Tiramisus, but this one is very special with its French brandy lingering in my palate, as well as the decadent white chocolate topping, so save room for it.
Butterscotch Pudding, with crema Mexicana, and boysenberry jam. I love anything butterscotch, and this desert did not disappoint.
Talk about culinary excellence with Chef Brian Hill at the helm, a James Beard award nominee, he really pulls out all of the stops. There are so many amazing nuances in his cooking, from preparation, to the marriage of his ingredients, to presentation. All in full glorious view of the diner’s experience. His concept is very simple with Manna Café – “Interesting Comfort Food”, with an emphasis on “Neighborhood Dining”. His experience is far reaching from working with the Hans Rockenwagner consortium, to the Dear Jane and Dear John establishments in the Los Angeles, Marina Del Rey area. Brian Hill is very inventive, good ingredients and a knowledge of how things marry together is what it’s all about for him. He is a hard worker, he’s at Manna from morning until the last dinner service is served. When he sleeps, I don’t know, it seems like he lives and breathes Manna Café.
What you’re going to get at Manna Café is a neighborhood familiar place feel, to come and imbibe for breakfast, lunch, or dinner with a lush gastronomic experience. As well as their staff is so welcoming, manager Paula Lopez made me feel so at home. No two dishes are the same here, all the menu items are individually different. Nothing overlaps any dish, all unique and specific to its description. The goodness abounds in everything that goes in your mouth. My experience was quite the surprise, when Manna catches on there will be waits and lines to get in, it’s just that good. Run, don’t walk to Manna Café; you will be so happy you did.
101 S. Fairfax Ave.
Los Angeles, CA. 90036
They serve dinner from 5:30-9:00 pm, otherwise they have daytime hours for lunch and coffee.
*Some Content Was Taken Off Their Website.