In Japan, unagi is a popular delicacy because people believe that it has “stamina enhancing properties”. Bear in mind that freshwater and saltwater eels in Japan have different names. Freshwater eels are called Unagi and salt water eels are called Anago (Unagi has more nutrition, fat, and has a heavier taste compared to Anago), so don’t be confused in differentiating the two.
Unagi is usually eaten during hot summer days because it is high in protein, vitamin A and calcium which lessens the feeling of heaviness and fatigue during summer. The most popular way of preparing unagi is by grilling them over charcoal. The delicious and crispy taste of freshly grilled unagi, braised with a special sauce will make you think that the expensive price is worth it!
Here are some of the specialty restaurants in Tokyo that serve great tasting unagi.
1. Unazen (鰻禅) in Oshiage
Unazen is popular unagi restaurant because they only cook fresh eels upon your order. This means that it will take some time (about an hour) before your unagi is prepared, but you can be assured that the taste will be worth the wait. They also serve Japanese sake which you can drink while waiting for your meal to arrive.
Address: 3-6-18 Azumabashi Sumida Tokyo
2. Ikeunagi No Mise Tsugumian (活鰻の店 つぐみ庵) in Komagome
In a seemingly ordinary residential area, you’ll find this popular unagi restaurant. This restaurant is well known for their Unaju (eel over rice) so it would be best if you make a reservation before you visit the place. They serve moderate broiled eels that are later grilled using a gas stove (yes, they don’t use charcoal). The chef uses a special cooking method that doesn’t compromise the taste of their Unaju.
Address: 1-29-1 Nakazato Kita Tokyo
3. Ishibashi (石ばし) in Edogawabashi
If you’re not too privy with your money and willing to eat great tasting unagi, then head straight to Ishibashi. The eels are placed on Wajima lacquered boxes with a light tangy sauce that compliment the rice. They have an Unaju set meal accompanied by pickles and eel liver soup that is worth ¥4,000.
Address: 2-4-29 Suido Bunkyo Tokyo
Website: http://unagi-ishibashi.com/ (Japanese Only)
4. Godaime Nodaiwa (五代目 野田岩) in Akabanebashi
Godaime Nodaiwa is a well-established unagi restaurant that has over 200 years of history. You can choose several versions of unagi (broiled, grilled) accompanied by appetizers and sauces that create an enjoyable dining experience.
Voyagin offers a reservation service for Nodaiwa. Use this plan to secure your reservation to this Michelin 1-star restaurant! Check out Voyagin's website to find out details.Reserve Nodaiwa Michelin 1-Star Eel Restaurant (View at Voyagin)
Address: 1-5-4 Higashiazabu Minato Tokyo
5. Unagi Akasaka Sekine (うなぎ 赤坂 勢きね) in Akasaka
Sekine is a small and traditional Unagi restaurant that you’ll find in Akasaka. They only have limited seats, so reservations is a must! They place great importance on the taste of their unagi and this is the reason why they are very popular with the locals and tourist alike.
Address: 9-1-7 Akasaka Minato Tokyo
6. Unagi Uomasa (うなぎ魚政) in Katsushika
Uomasa prides their domestically bred eels that they use in preparing their unagi dishes. Since they only prepare the eel after an order, it will take them at least 40 minutes of meticulous cooking to serve your meal. Freshly cut eel liver with wasabi and eel bone chips are served while waiting for your order to arrive.
Address: 4-14-4, Higashiyotsugi, Katsushika-ku, Tokyo
Website: http://unagi-uomasa.jp/tokyo/ (Japanese Only)
7. Nihonbashi Isesada (日本橋 伊勢定) in Nihonbashi
Isesada in Nihonbashi is found near Mitsukoshi-Mae Station. Their filleted charcoal grilled eel basted with a light sauce is very tender and rich in flavor. This is one of those few unagi specialty restaurants, where you will get great value for your money.
Address: 1-5-17 Nihonbashi Muromachi Chuo Tokyo
Website: http://r.gnavi.co.jp/g237300/ (Japanese Only)
8. Miyoshi (三好) in Ningyocho
Just a 5-minute walk from the Ningyocho station, Miyoshi is a place where you’ll find traditional Japanese style unagi delicacies. Their home-made pickles and soup have a unique flavor that is bound to increase your appetite. Their finely grilled Unaju have a very deep flavor, which is due to the experience of their chef.
Address: 1 Chome-5-6 Nihonbashiningyocho Chuo-ku, Tokyo
9. Miyagawa Honten (つきじ宮川本廛) in Shinjuku
This spacious and modern unagi restaurant is found on the 7th floor of the Isetan Shinjuku Store. The good thing about dining here at Miyagawa Honten is that they have English menus for those who don’t understand the Japanese language. The set meals include soup, pickled vegetables, salad, and sashimi.
Address: Isetan Shinjuku Main Wing 7F, 3 Chome-14-1 Shinjuku Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
Website: http://www.t-miyagawa.com (Japanese Only)
10. Unagi Toku Shibuya (うなぎ徳 渋谷ヒカリエ店) in Shibuya
Unagi Toku is just a few minutes walk from the Shibuya Metro Station and found on the 6th floor of the well-known Shibuya Hikarie Building. Their unagi is very tender and the sauce taste just right (not too salty, not too sweet) and the price is very reasonable.
Address: Shibuya Hikarie 6F, 2-21-1, Shibuya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
11. Funachu (ふなちゅう) in Ginza
Funachu is a restaurant with over 60 years of history, located at a 2-minutes walk from Ginza Station. Their signature menu Unaju and Hitsumabushi have been loved by locals and tourists alike. They also offer other dishes such as yakitori, tempura, sashimi, fried chicken, etc. Anyone would be able to satisfy at Funachu Ginza.
Address: 6-9-4, Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
12. Izuei (伊豆栄) in Ueno
Izuei's history is long. The history of Izuei is history of Tokyo as a capital, as they founded in mid-Edo Period which is approximately 300 years ago. Their crispy and flavorful unagi has satisfied stomachs of Japanese people for a long time. If you would like to experience the most of Izuei, try their course menus that include appetizer, sashimi, soup, etc.
Address: 2-12-22 Ueno, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Data is as of November 2016
Thumbnail is from Flickr