Enjoy authentic Edo-style broiled eel in southern Yokohama

Enjoy authentic Edo-style broiled eel in southern Yokohama

by Takahiro Takiguchi
Stripes Japan

High-end steak houses, chick French restaurants or famed sushi bars might be some options when you are going to splurge or celebrate something special.

In Japan, we often go to unagi (fresh water eel) restaurants on a special occasion or when we want to recharge and energize ourselves from hustle and bustle of daily life, especially during the unbearable, steamy summer months. In fact, it is custom to eat eel on the "Midsummer Day of the Ox," according to Japanese Zodiac. We do this to overcome the summer heat and fatigue.

Unagi has a long history and tradition in Japan. It looks a bit ugly for sure, and most foreigners might skip it when they see it in a Japanese restaurant. Actually, unagi tastes great and is nutritious. If you have not sampled it yet, I strongly encourage you try Japan’s traditional delicacy in form of unaju (broiled eel on rice, served in a lacquered bento box) or unadon (broiled eel on rice, served in a ceramic bowl) at a specialized eel restaurant.

Kanazawa Hakkei in Yokohama City, a 20-minute drive from Yokosuka Naval Base, is a district known for its high-reputed unagi restaurants. Unamatsu, Fukushima and Sumidagawa are always highly ranked among countless eel restaurants in the Kanto Plain.

On Father’s Day, my daughter took me to the highly regarded Sumidagawa to show her appreciation for my 30 years of fatherhood. Sumidagawa is a longstanding unagi restaurant that serves terrific “edomae” (Tokyo-style) unagi in a traditional Japanese setting.

Since no reservations are allowed, I saw some regulars waiting in line in front of the shop when we arrived around 5 p.m. After a 10-minute wait, we stepped into the restaurant through a traditional-looking façade and a noren curtain. The Japanese-style interior made up of counter seats, wooden tables and private rooms made for an inviting and relaxing atmosphere. We were seated on the second floor which featured tatami mats and low tables. The traditional Japanese settings made us feel at home and an ideal space to celebrate a special day.

I ordered the matsu (pine) unaju set for 4,100 yen ($35). The set is made up of broiled eel on steamed rice served in a lacquered black bento box, kimosui (eel liver soup), salad and fried eel bone tips.

The eel was charbroiled after our order was placed. We had to wait 20 minutes, but it’s well worth the wait.

When I uncovered the lid of my bento box, the sweet, smoky aroma of the charbroiled eel billowed out. The brown unagi glistened atop a bed of slightly seasoned rice.

The eel was incredibly tender and savory. It was buttery and melt-in-the-mouth, and had a complicated and delicious flavor thanks to the restaurant’s secret sauce. 

The eel bone tips were crispy, just like senbei rice cookies, and the eel liver soup had a simple yet profound soothing taste, which was a good mix with the rich, buttery flavor of the eel.

The tasty, high-end eel and my daughter’s warmhearted considerations on the Father’s Day celebration made me refreshed and recharged!

If you are in Japan, you owe to yourself to try eel. And there’s no better place to sample Japan’s authentic taste of a traditional delicacy than Sumidagawa. I promise that one bite of unagi will fascinate you.

Sumidagawa also offers sashimi (raw fish) and tempura courses, and it has a take-out option for enjoying unagi in the comfort of your home.

Sumidagawa

Hours: Fri – Wed 11 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.

Location: 5-7 Machiyacho, Kanazawa-ku, Yokohama City, Kanagawa Prefecture

URL

Tel: 045-701-8621

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