Guts and gloriously good eel
Head to the back of The Working Capitol during lunch or dinner and you’ll find a curious queue
snaking ‘eeling’ through the middle of the small park. Despite arriving 5 minutes before the door opens, there are already 30 people in line ahead of us. We watch as a party of two argue with the waitress, wanting to get a seat while waiting for their friends. But the restaurant can’t afford that – even two single diners are forced to share a table. Forty minutes go by before we finally reach the door, the scent of burning charcoal mixed with the sea fuelling our anticipation.
Three tanks packed with live eels greet you once you step in. Thanks to chef Teppei Yamashita’s Japanese network, he’s able to get them straight from Mikawa Isshiki region, a place famous for producing the highest quality freshwater eels. If you’re lucky enough to get a seat at the counter, you’ll have a full view of chefs killing, gutting and grilling behind the glass panel. It’s almost like a scene from a horror movie. Innards line the chopping board, raw eels that have been skewered await their turn on the grill and an overzealous man fans the flames with one hand while dipping the eels in tare sauce with the other. With enthusiasm like that running the kitchen, the food comes quickly once we're seated.
The hitsumabushi ($26.80) is an unagi don that can enjoyed in three different ways. First, try it plain; second, sprinkle over some spring onions, seaweed and freshly grated wasabi; and third, pour dashi over the remaining rice and enjoy it chazuke-style. Ideally, you’d also save some rice to have it a fourth way, with different types of sauces that are left on the table – but with unagi this good, you really don’t need it.
The butamabushi ($18.80), which comes with stewed pork belly instead of grilled eel, can be eaten the same way. While it might seem strange to order a pork bowl at an unagi restaurant, the butamabushi manages to hold its own. The meat is more lean than fatty, and is tender enough to be cut with a pair of chopsticks. If the meat was finished off on the grill for an added hint of smokiness, it might actually outshine the unagi.
For people looking to try an assortment of what Man Man has to offer in one bowl, go for the kimo don ($24.80): it's served with a portion of unagi, kimoyaki (eel liver) and tamagoyaki. The kimoyaki is especially elusive, usually selling out within the first hour of service. It takes about seven eels to make a small portion, and unlike other forms of liver, the taste is mild and the burnt ends add a satisfying crunch.
In true izakaya fashion, wash it all down with either a Suntory Highball ($10) or The Premium Malt’s ($8). But be sure to steer clear of the cocktails. Say Yes! ($14.80), a sake, lychee liqueur and soda mix, and Bubbles-Bubbles ($12.80), a gin, Kyoho grape liqueur, and Calpis concoction are flat and much too sweet. Considering it’s a waitress behind the bar instead of an actual bartender, we should have known better.
Time Out Singapore reviews anonymously and pays for all meals.
|Venue name:||Man Man Japanese Unagi Restaurant|
1 Keong Saik Rd
|Opening hours:||Mon-Sat 11.30am-3pm, 6-10.30pm|
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