A favourite in Beijing's dining scene, Sake Manzo's menu feels like it's trying to do too much
Despite it being home to a sizeable Japanese community, Beijing is remarkably poorly endowed with qualitative Japanese restaurants. A handful exist, but the vast majority do not serve anything noteworthy. Sake Manzo has a reputation for serving excellent izakaya staples paired with an impressive sake selection.
Run by one of the biggest sake importers in China, Sake Manzo is charming restaurant. Whether you sit at the bar or at a table, the room has a good vibe to it, even though it doesn’t feel like an izakaya due to its size. The sake selection is one of the more varied in Beijing, which is not surprising given the owner’s métier. The menu, on the other hand, covers anything from sashimi to unagi-don, okonomiyaki and even tempura. A meal here leaves you thinking that instead of offering a focused menu, this feels like the chefs here have too much on their hands to really excel at anything in particular.
A dish of aubergine with miso is served as a gratinated pulp on a wooden spoon. Tasting more like miso paste than anything else, this is hardly exciting. Much better is unagi-don. Eel is cut in thin slivers and placed atop cooked rice. Whilst not a particularly exciting rendition of this classic dish, this is nonetheless a competent plate of food. The most disappointing dish served here, however, is the okonomiyaki. Seemingly made of a lot of flour and some condiments, this is the most compact, starchy okonomiyaki we have ever been served.
Sake Manzo enjoys a good reputation in Beijing, so it is a pity to find out that it’s food is hardly exciting for anyone who has eaten in Japan. Whilst the spot itself is enjoyable to spend an evening in, it feels like it’s potential largely remains untapped.
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