Sake Manzo’s Long Sushi Bar
I like to think of Sake Manzo as my little neighborhood’s hidden secret (it’s literally a 2 minute walk from my apartment complex), but I’m reminded how wrong I am every time I go because it’s packed all the time. It’s so popular among both locals and foreigners alike even though no one really ever seems to talk about it. Maybe it’s because we all share the mentality of wanting to keep Sake Manzo our own secret, but based on the steady flow of regulars, the word is out.
Owned by a Japanese sake distributor with the biggest stock of premium sake bottles available in the city and the ingrained trait for being passionate about food quality (as you would expect from a meticulous and hard-working Japanese restaurant owner). Reading through Sake Manzo’s extensive menu, you can read all about their promise to follow the Slow Food movement. They strive as much as they can to support local farmers and serve food that is seasonal, local, fresh and wholesome.
Most of the staff are Chinese-speaking but the menus are all in Japanese, Chinese and English so communication isn’t an issue. Having said that, be sure to ask for the English version of the daily specials on offer (though I had difficulty understanding what most dishes were as only the Japanese name was given). I’ve tried making an effort to order a couple dishes off their daily specials menu, but every time, I revert back to a few spectacular dishes they have on their regular menu that are tough to beat.
Arriving on a Saturday evening at 7:30PM, you can expect to wait about 30 minutes to be seated so be smart and book ahead of time.
LDS Snapshots of Sake Manzo:
Sake Manzo’s Discreet Entrance
Main Dining Section Next to Long Sushi Bar
Long Hall between Private Dining Rooms
Empty Private Room for Your Viewing Pleasure
(because going into a private room full of people would be awkward and a no-go)
Table Setting Upon Arrival at Sushi Bar
Don’t worry, I didn’t eat all the dishes below in one sitting. These dishes are actually from a couple of visits recently.
As you can see from the photos below, the portions aren’t huge, but each one is enough to satisfy your curiosity and leaving you space for more variety. Dishes are generally RMB 30-50 and set up perfectly to share between two but if you came in a bigger group, say 4 people for example, each person would probably only get a mouthful (maybe two if your fellow foodies are feeling generous).
And if it’s variety you want, that’s what you’re going to get at Sake Manzo. But for an indecisive person like myself, the menu can be very overwhelming at first glance. There are so many pages, the menu is a book broken into chapters of seasonal specials, appetizers, organic veggie salads, fresh sashimi, sushi, grilled fish, grilled and slow-cooked meats, deep-fried dishes and desserts. And don’t forget the separate menu of daily specials.
LDS Snapshots of Sake Manzo’s Menu Dishes:
Tuna and Avocado with Yams (RMB 45)
Stewed Eggplant with Smoked Salmon (RMB 30)
Homemade Tofu and Tuna (RMB 40)
Seafood Natto (RMB 35)
Grilled Beef Asparagus Roll (RMB 45)
Tuna Tartare topped with Quail Egg (RMB 50)
Pork and Miso Vegetable Soup (RMB 20)
Stir-fried Shiitake Mushroom (RMB 25)
Okonomiyaki (RMB 50)
Beef and Vegetables over Rice (RMB 45)
Stir-fried Vegetables (RMB 30)
3-Hours Boiled Japanese Style Simmered Pork (RMB 50)
Roasted Eggplant (RMB 30)
Garlic flavored stir-fried beef and vegetables topped with raw egg (RMB 100)
Homemade Almond Tofu Dessert (RMB 28)
Overall, Sake Manzo serves up a spectacular dining experience. You can taste the quality of their dishes and there’s so much on offer. The menu can actually be quite overwhelming for first-timers, but with every dish highlighted with a photo, you can generally know what you expect. Big dish highlights are the Seafood Natto (RMB 35), Tuna Tartare topped with Quail Egg (RMB 50) and 3-Hours Boiled Japanese Style Simmered Pork (RMB 50).
Though I enjoy variety, I do think the menu is a bit too broad. Rather than trying to do everything, I think Sake Manzo could do with a bit of focus. If I had to choose, my heart still remains loyal to Vin Vie which has a much smaller menu, but almost every dish we had was a show-stopper. I would say that out of all the dishes on Sake Manzo’s menu, probably one third of those dishes were stand-outs. Having said that, these stand-outs are spectacular and they raise the entire dining experience from very good to awesome, but I can’t say that I would order some dishes upon return (i.e., I didn’t care much for the Okonomiyaki (RMB 50) and the garlic stir-fried beef and bean sprouts was not worth the RMB 100 pricetag).
Between two people with healthy appetites, you can expect a satisfied stomach after about 8-10 dishes and a bill that will cost you around RMB 400 total. More than decent!
Sake Manzo Contact Details:
Address: Going East from Tuanjiehu Subway Exit C (southeast corner of Changhong Bridge), you’ll go east past 1 traffic light and you’ll see bus terminal on your right. After bus terminal, go south down little alley and you’ll see Sake Manzo on your right hand side. 朝阳区团结湖北四条
Opening Hours: Daily 6:00PM-Midnight
Home of Japanese sake and soju galore, this is where you can your hands on the best of the best. The restaurant is owned by sake distributer Taka Yamamoto who has stocked his own supply of this premium liquor. The drink menu neatly breaks down sake bottles into categories of Fruity, Dry, Delicate, etc. Most bottles are sold by the bottle, but some offer small pitchers or per glass option. I recommend sampling some of their soju cocktails on the back pages.
Sake Manzo follows the Slow Food movement. They care about their ingredients and highlights are items that use organic vegetables from a local farm.
I highly recommend their Seafood Natto (RMB 35), Tuna Tartare topped with Quail Egg (RMB 50) and 3-Hours Boiled Japanese Style Simmered Pork (RMB 50).
They make their own homemade tofu, which is a highlight as well. I loved their Almond tofu dessert, but note that they only have 12 servings a day so get your order in early so you don’t miss out.
Service could use a tune-up. Upon arrival, there was a wait list and when I asked approximately how long the wait was, the host just shrugged and say “no idea!” How very helpful. We had to wait quite awhile before could wave someone down to be given menus and dishes were slow to be delivered. They would come in waves of 2 or 3 at a time but with very long waits in between each wave. They also don’t take away any empty dishes, so you’re left with quite a pile-up of plateware at the end of your meal to admire how many dishes you demolished. One redeeming quality was that a helpful waiter informed us straight after we ordered that one of the dishes was sold out and gave us recommendations to replace that dish.
The location is tucked away down a little alleyway but just look at the map below and you should be able to find it.
They serve complimentary tea but the waitstaff don’t refill. Luckily we normally just sit at the sushi bar so we were able to just help ourselves to the tea thermoses.
There’s a big display barrier between customers at the sushi bar and sushi chefs so don’t expect to have much social interaction with them. Unlike in Japan, you’re just served by waitstaff, not by the chefs themselves. Also, I’d recommend their sashimi and nigiri sushi rolls more than their sushi rolls as that’s more fusion-y and Sake Manzo is more traditional Japanese.
Rating: (on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being best)
Overall Experience: 8