Unagikoizumi: The Appeal of Japanese Eel
Published: January 9, 2018
In the Kameido area, I recommend visiting the beautiful Kameido Tenjin Shrine, and then heading over to the restaurant Unagi Koizumi to get a taste of an exclusive, traditional Japanese dish: “unadon”, or grilled eel rice bowl.
Mr. Koizumi, the chef and owner, has been cooking eel for 40 years! Mr. Koizumi works with his wife. She cooks rice and side dishes like pickles, salad, and soup. Everything is handmade at Unagi Koizumi!
In the restaurant, there are two tables for four people, but many prefer to sit at the counter and watch Mr. Koizumi cook. It’s really interesting.
The eel that is consumed in Japan is of a special species known as “Japanese eel”. The eel flesh contains plenty of vitamin A and B and unsaturated fatty acids that are good for health. Originally, it was a popular summer dish, but currently you can eat it all year long.
For some years now, eel has been becoming a very popular dish, especially among foreign customers. This can be explained in part by its expensive price. But don’t worry! At Unagi Koizumi, you’ll be able to eat a delicious, high-quality eel dish at an affordable price!
Mr. Koizumi explained to me that he chooses eel with a particular care. He buys live eels and cooks them carefully. “Cooking eel is difficult. Cutting the fillets is highly technical and requires years of experience. A specific knife is required to cut the eel fillets. The knife is easily recognizable by its characteristic edges.
You need to pay special attention while cooking. The flesh must be tender and juicy.”
At first, the eel is skewered and grilled. Then they are steamed and finally grilled again with a sweet and salty sauce. The recipe for the sauce is a secret, but the core ingredients include soya sauce, mirin (sweet rice wine), sugar, and Japanese sake. This cooking technique is called “kabayaki”. It’s the Kanto way to cook eel.
At Unagi Koizumi, the dish is served with homemade pickles, a small cucumber salad and a dashi soup of fish broth.
Mr. Koizumi also cooks skewered eel liver. It’s called “kimoyaki” in Japanese. Eel liver is said to be good for improving eyesight and is nutritious.
I’ve already eaten eel in Japan but, Mr. Koizumi’s dish was by far the best one. The flesh was tender and juicy, with a delicate taste. I really enjoyed this meal. I also appreciated the warm welcome of Mr. Koizumi and his wife. Mr. and Mrs. Koizumi will help you to feel comfortable in their restaurant. The cuisine is delicious and has convinced me to invite my friends over next time.
Story by Aline Lambelet
Photos by Aline Lambelet and more