5 Must-Try Unagi Restaurants in Tokyo
Unagi (Japanese eel) is a well-known delicacy in Japan that can be enjoyed all year round, but is especially popular in summer. This is due to the brutal summer heat which often negatively effects stamina levels. Unagi has been traditionally enjoyed in Japan for its stamina-maintaining properties as it's rich in vitamins, stimulates the appetite, is easy to digest, and is high in protein and calcium. And, not only is it super nutritious, it's also really tasty! Here are 5 unagi restaurants in Tokyo for you to try this luxurious treat!
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1. Suzuki (Kamata)
This well-established unagi shop first opened its doors around 1935 in Tokyo's Kanda area. Due to a an unfortunate fire, they relocated to its current location in 1945. The first floor has both table seating and zashiki (low table seating on tatami flooring), while the second floor offers only zashiki seating. Try their Unajyu (2,600 yen), a lacquered box of rice topped with broiled eel dipped in the shop's special sauce!
They also have newer items like the Unagi Tataki (3,300 yen), a refreshing adaptation of chopped eel paired with a heap of sliced onions and ponzu (citrus-seasoned soy sauce). If you're looking to splurge a bit, go for the course menus (from 5,100 yen, reservations required 3 days prior), a luxurious set including an unagi dish, yakitori, pickled vegetable sides, and chawanmushi (steamed egg custard) among many others.
2. Nodaiwa (Ginza)
Nodaiwa is a long-established unagi restaurant that has expanded in the Tokyo area with 4 locations as well as a branch overseas in Paris, France. The restaurant's history dates back to the late 18th century, boasting a rich traditional atmosphere accumulated over its 200 years of establishment. They were even visited by daimyo (feudal lords) back in the day, so you can be sure of the high quality and taste of their dishes!
Their signature dish is their Shirayaki (3,500 yen) (unseasoned grilled eel), which is prepared exactly how it was when the restaurant first opened, ensuring that it's maintained its authentic and traditional flavor. There are also extravagant courses starting from 4,800 yen, so be sure to take a look!
3. Izuei (Ueno)
Izuei has about 300 years under its belt, spanning over nine generations that have carried on the business and treasured secret sauce over the years. As one of the prized foods of the area since long ago, they strive to utilize their skills to serve the highest quality of unagi to their customers. The shop has a very traditional Japanese vibe, and offers both table and zashiki seating.
For starters, try their eel bowls such as Matsu (110g with soup and pickled vegetables, 3,240 yen). There's also an eel box version of the Matsu (same price as eel bowl Matsu). Other options beside Matsu are Take (150g, 4,320 yen) and Ume (190g, 5,400 yen). As for courses, they vary from 6,480 yen to 21,600 yen, so you can choose according to your preferences and budget!
4. Unagi Hashimoto (Edogawabashi)
Unagi Hashimoto is a Michelin-starred unagi restaurant that was established in 1835 and is currently managed by its 6th owner. The restaurant comrpises two floors, with table and zashiki seating on the first floor and three private rooms on the second floor. They offer eel with three types of Unaju: Small (3,100 yen), Medium (3,800 yen), and Large (4,500 yen). The eels are carefully selected by the owner every morning and prepared with the utmost skill, so you'll be guaranteed a deliciously crispy skin on the outside and tender, fluffy meat on the inside! The lightly scorched skin mixes together exquisitely with the fragrance of the eel and the savory and sweet sauce.
In addition to unagi, they also have Oyakodon (chicken and egg rice bowl) (1,300 yen), Egg Omelette with Unagi (for 2 or more people, 1,700 yen per person), Fried Eel Bones (250 yen), and Yakitori (grilled chicken skewers) (700 yen) among many other dishes. Pair your meal with some sake (Japanese alcohol) and you're set!
5. Hitsumabushi Bincho (Tokyo Skytree)
Hitsumabushi Bincho has several locations in Tokyo, and this particular branch is located in an open, modern atmosphere where you can even see the skilled chefs grill the eels over the fire from outside. Their sauce is particularly noteworthy as its made with a blend of the highest grade of soy sauce and carefully selected sugar and mirin (sweet sake used in Japanese cooking), which elevates the unagi flavor to a new level. Their menu is incredibly diverse, but one of their top picks is the Hitsumabushi (3,500 yen) (seasoned eel fillets grilled and cut into small pieces and topped over rice). They also include other classic items like Unaju (3,700 yen) and Shirayaki (2,980 yen).
If you're feeling like really treating yourself, try the Special Hitsumabushi (from 6,200 yen), which layers exquisite bits of seasoned and grilled unagi with rice in a mille-feuille style. You can also order some items on their menu to-go, so you can bring it back to your hotel with you if you're feeling tired from exploring all day.
Although unagi is slightly on the pricy side, you'll definitely be in for a treat! Feast on some tasty unagi while you're in Japan, and be sure to keep up your stamina and combat the summer fatigue!
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The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.