I’ve been craving unadon, eel brushed with a sweet and savory sauce of dark soy, Mirin cooking rice wine and sugar, served over rice. If you have the same hankering, there’s one quick fix downtown Shanghai, and it’s at Manzhong (鳗重).
Unagi Don (Eel Rice) at Manzhong 鳗重
Manzhong is a shoebox of a restaurant on Yuyuan Lu with a counter for about 10 people. For years since opening (2016), the pricing has never changed. The wall-mounted menu proudly displays one item, set at ¥120. So if you don’t speak any Chinese (or Japanese), just hold up your index finger for “One portion, please.”
Below the frame is a hastily printed notice of two rules: you can’t share your order (everyone who sits down must order an eel rice) and that they only seat complete parties (continue waiting in line for your friends who are late).
The eel rice here is served in a lacquer box set (unaju)—fat fillets of eel glistening with sweet and savory glaze over piping hot rice with sides of soup and two tiny dishes of pickles or vegetables.
It’s good. It hits the spot. You can even ask for extra rice.
Is this is the best unagi rice in Shanghai? I haven’t sampled all the unagi dons, but I’m sure plenty will argue that there are better ones in Hongqiao and Gubei where the discerning Japanese community covet their local Japanese-run restaurants.
Manzhong takes care of me as a quick fix. It’s pretty damn good. Even if I have to wait outside for a seat to open up. It’s popular, so if you want to avoid the lines, go early.
For drinks: beer (¥20), soft drinks (¥15), plum wine (¥25).
Address: 580 Yuyuan Lu, near Zhenning Lu 愚园路580号, 近镇宁路
Hours: 11am-2pm, 5pm-9pm