If I decided to go for Japanese food back in my school days where there aren’t many Japanese eateries around yet, I would choose Unagidon because I enjoyed the grilled unagi (or freshwater eel) glazed with Tare sauce, a sweet and thick soy sauce which is used for grilling meats. The flesh of the eel is soft and sweet. When grilled and seasoned together with the tare sauce, it just tasted so delicious when eaten with Japanese white rice.
And the other day I had the opportunity to relish those ‘Unagidon’-days at Man Man Japanese Unagi Restaurant. As the name of the restaurant has suggested, it is a restaurant that specializes in unagi. Their unagi supply comes all the way from the Mikawa Isshiki region. This restaurant is led by Chef Nakagawa-san, a veteran in unagi preparation and he has worked in a Mikawa unagi shop for more than 20 years.
For a start, we ordered Unagi Shirayaki which is unagi grilled with salt instead of the tare sauce. When the eel is prepared in this manner, you can taste more of the meat itself. The texture is so different from the ones which are seasoned with the sauce because you can definitely feel the tiny bones of the eel right in your mouth. Nonetheless, the meat is tasty. The outer layer has a nice crisp to it while the flesh itself is soft and tender. But I wouldn’t say that the meat is sweet. Though I know that the chef actually prepared the dish using freshwater eel which has been just cut alive on the chopping board. You could actually see it through the glass panel that separates the kitchen from the restaurant seating area. It’s gruesome to watch them slaughter the eel alive with blood oozing out of the eels. Perhaps some found it satisfying to watch fresh eels getting sliced and grilled. The eels are still moving while it is on the chopping board!
The Japanese would usually eat Unagi Shirayaki with some flavoured salt. If you asked me, I still prefer grilled Unagi with tare sauce.
And here comes our Unagi Don in medium size. They offer large size too but I feel that medium size is sufficient. It comes with tamagoyaki (egg omelette) and seaweed soup.
I would have much preferred the Unagidon to have a little more tare sauce so that it can also be mixed with the rice for flavour. Otherwise, you could add the savoury sauces (sweet, spicy and original) which are found at each table.
The waitress also recommended us to try Hitshuma Bushi where you are supposed to eat Unagidon with soup stock. She explained that it is a Japanese style of eating unagi mixed with rice and soup. I would definitely recommend having this if you are dining at Man Man. It is indeed very interesting.
You have to first transfer all the condiments like seaweed and spring onion (served at the side) to your Unagi bowl then pour the soup stock over and enjoy it like you’re eating porridge. It’s actually very flavourful and it does give me that one-of-a-kind experience because initially, I thought it wouldn’t taste as delicious since the Unagi might get soggy in the soup. But the texture turns out great. In fact, the soup stock adds flavour to the rice and enhances the taste of the Unagi. Perhaps this is the traditional way of savouring the unagi.
There’s also a bar at the restaurant which serves alcoholic drinks like cocktails. I would foresee a lot of white-collar workers gathering there for a good meal and some alcohol.
I decided to try their cocktail is which named as ‘ SAY YES!’ It comes with a dried rosebud and what’s missing is a wedding proposal ring.
Man Man Japanese Unagi Restaurant is located right behind The Working Capitol, facing the park behind Keong Saik Road. It is literally hidden from the main road and you know, good food are usually stowed away from others. And once you are there, it’s no different from those small Japanese eateries or Ramen stalls along the streets of Tokyo. I wouldn’t say the seating area is huge and it can get a little squeezy when it is full. It would be best to make a reservation.