Man Yo

  • Restaurants
  • Asian
  • Japanese
16 Jianguomenwai Dajie
Few Japanese eateries continue to capture our attention like Yotsuba. The Lido-based sushi den has served as an oasis of austere Japanese culinary perfection for years now, and yet every time we make the trip (and save up enough dough) the meticulous attention to detail and reverence for ingredients puts even our most embellished daydreams to shame.

A meal at Yotsuba is not about having fun, it is about enjoying some of the best fresh fish and seafood money can buy. So it came as a bit of a shock to learn that the team behind this high alter of high-priced culinary bliss was launching a more wallet-friendly concept. Man Yo, the first in what we have been told will be a handful of new locations from the Yotsuba group, specialises in a style of charcoal grilled fish called robatayaki – and it’s about as good as we could have hoped.

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The Jianguomen location is a bit odd, with the tattered edifice of the Scitech Hotel looming overhead as we wander towards the distinctly Yotsuba-looking façade located between neighbourhood dives, but true to Yotsuba form the transition between the exterior and the interior is stark. Pushing past a narrow hedge of bamboo, the din of Jianguomen melts away in place of fresh white pine, brushed flagstone and tatami mats so fresh they are tinged with green. Casual neighbourhood drinking spot this most certainly isn’t, but the open layout in the dining room and long sushi bar make for a more convivial environment than the countless private rooms of the more formal Yotsuba.

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Where Man Yo does begin to distinguish itself is in the pricing. A glance through Yotsuba’s menu is akin to luxury condo shopping, but Man Yo’s offerings are grounded firmly in the here and now. We waste no time and start with steamed edamame and a sochu mojito. The tender beans are perfection, with the hairy pods sporting flakes of sea salt to bring out the musty green undertones. Roasted ginko nuts and a cube of fresh tofu flavoured with cool green soy beans are perfect drinking food, but it seems like a waste to fill up on such simple chow. We’re here for the charcoal grilled fish, after all.

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The bar is separated from the dining room by thick glass but we can sense the intense 900-degree heat from the subtle red luminance and sweat beading on the cook’s brow. Salted tiger prawns are the first to arrive, quickly followed by a fin of simmered ray. The salty-sweet prawns have been cooked in their own juices and as we start to peel the bright red shells away, the aroma of prawn and sea spray is overwhelming. The ray is a curious order but no less delicious, with neat rows of tender flesh pulling away in strips; its nutty flavour is complemented by a savoury glaze reminiscent of grilled unagi eel and every bit as satisfying.

At long last the whole roasted red mu fish arrives, taut as if it had spontaneously roasted itself mid-jump before materialising in front of a gaggle of eager chopsticks. The salted skin peels away to reveal an impossibly juicy flesh that pulls clean from the bone at the slightest suggestion. The flavour is clean yet almost buttery in its richness, each flake of moist flesh melts on the first bite before sending a wave of sensations to echo around the palate.

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Although we have come to expect the best things from Yotsuba cold, the grilled offerings at Man Yo put all thoughts of sushi out of our mind: an impressive feat. Man Yo ultimately succeeds where many sub-brands fail: it offers a comparable level of experience and while hardly outshines the parent, Man Yo stands on its own two feet.
Venue name: Man Yo
Contact:
Opening hours: Open 11.30-2pm; 5.30-10pm daily
English address: W-4, Building 3, East Rujing, 16 Jianguomenwai Dajie, Chaoyang district
Chinese address: 朝阳区建国门外大街16号东方瑞景3 号楼底商W-4号
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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