Since the release of the Singapore Michelin Guide’s Bib Gourmand awardees, queues of diners have lined up at the featured hawker stalls and restaurants. One of the new entrants, Man Man Unagi, reveals that its queues have always remained that long since it opened its doors. The unagi lover in me rushed to join the queue to find out if the unagi lived up to its name.
Helmed by Chef Nakagawa-san, a veteran in unagi preparation and grilling, Man Man specialises in Nagoya – style charcoal grilled Japanese unagi. Their unagi comes solely from the Mikawa Isshiki region, which is famous for high quality unagi. Made to order, each live unagi is first skewered and grilled over a hot charcoal grill. After being charred for about 15 minutes, the eel is brushed with a secret house-made gravy made from ingredients such as soya sauce and brown sugar. The eel is then flame broiled to retain its juiciness, while the flavours develop.
The queues were definitely as long as Man Man’s eels. There were easily about 50-60 hungry customers queueing in front of us. Midway through the queue, a staff handed us a menu for us to pick out our orders in advance. He took our orders and handed us an order chit which we handed over to the staff as soon as we were seated. Remember to come prepared with a bottle of water, or an electronic fan, as the wait might stretch up to 3 hours.
The service efficiency is commendable. Cups of refreshing Barley tea were served to us immediately. Not long after, we were served the Hitsumabushi ($35.80+ for Large, $26.80+ for Regular), which is a kind of unagi donburi. Each portion features a bed of rice topped with thickly-sliced pieces of Japanese unagi. A small pitcher of dashi broth, a plate of pickles, and a plate of condiments containing strips of seaweed, chopped spring onion and freshly grated wasabi came with the prized unagi donburi. I was slightly disappointed as we didn’t get to grate the Japanese horseradish ourselves as the shop was closing.
There are 4 recommended ways to enjoy the Hitsumabushi. Before you attempt them, divide your unagi donburi into 4 small portions.
First way: Eat it on its own.
Scoop out the first portion of unagi with rice and eat it as it is. Each thickly-sliced piece of unagi is delicate and savoury, with a good amount of fat that makes the unagi melt in your mouth. The unagi is succulent and well seasoned. As the menu cautioned, there are small bones in the unagi so be careful.
Second way: Mix in the condiments
For the second portion, mix in half of the provided condiments. Unlike the usual harsh wasabi paste you get outside, their freshly-grated wasabi has a smoother texture.
Third way: Pour in the Dashi stock
Mix in the remaining condiments and pour in the dashi stock in the small pitcher for the third portion. The simple dashi stock is a game-changer. The light-tasting broth gradually absorbs the oils and seasoning of the unagi, creating a sweet and hearty concoction.
Fourth way – Eat it however you want!
Devour the last portion however you like! I like the second way the most, because it really allows me to relish the taste of the unagi.
Apart from the Hitsumabushi, Man Man also has Butamabushi ($18.80+). Similar to the Hitsumabushi, the Butamabushi has all the provided condiments and broth. The only difference is that the unagi is replaced with stewed pork belly. The texture of the pork belly varied – some parts were tough and some portions were soft and fatty. However, the pork belly was wonderfully seasoned with a sweet sauce that pairs well with the dashi broth.
The restaurant also offers a number of sides to pair with your main courses. We had the Yahatamaki ($14.80+), which is burdock rolled inside eel meat. It’s an acquired taste, with the succulent eel being masked quickly by the crunchy burdock that has a subtle sweetness.
Overall, I think that Man Man Unagi deserves its spot in the Singapore Michelin Bib Gourmand List 2017. The restaurant delivers what it promises – top-notch unagi that is well seasoned and succulent. Although the quality and taste is undisputed, I found the prices slightly steep for the small portions.
Man Man Japanese Unagi Restaurant
Address: 1 Keong Saik Road #01-01 Singapore 089109
Phone: 6222 0678
Opening Hours: 11.30am to 3pm, 3pm to 10.30pm daily. Closed on Sundays.
MissTamChiak.com made anonymous visit and paid its own meal at the stall featured here.
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