The Place A restaurant which specialises in Unagi? That’s right, Nodaiwa in Tokyo has been offering that on its menu since 1850, and only has unagi dishes on its menu run by its 5th-generation owner-chef Kanejiro Kanemoto. I made my way to the original outlet in Minato area near Tokyo Tower, as I wanted to experience the most authentic and rustic experience. The cute building is a nice juxtaposition among the high-rise buildings, with its building structure transported from Takayama, which explains the old and vintage Japan look.
This family-owned restaurant has three storeys, the first level has a few dining tables while those above are mainly tatami style. I was ushered up level two in a small and private room by the friendly Kimono-clad service staff, in a predominantly wooden setting and narrow corridor. It did feel like I was entering an old Japanese residence, which added to the rustic charm of the ambience.
The Food Nowaida is reputed to serve wild unagi, or eel, and is also one Michelin star. We started with the Chawanmushi and Umaki, unagi wrapped in tamago (egg). The chawanmushi is one of the most expensive and luxurious one I ever had, which contained generous chunks of unagi and shark’s fin. There is no better way to start our meal.
Similarly, the Umaki is served on a hot plate, with a perfectly cooked tamago and some bits of unagi to further whet our appetite before our main course was served.
For mains, we had the large unaju, basically unagi on rice prepared in a kabayaki style where the unagi was dipped in soy sauce before being grilled. I don’t need to say much, but this is the best and most delicious unagi I ever had in my life, to the extent that I think what I have been having previously is crap. You can hardly feel any small bones in the unagi, which was well-marinated with its secret recipe sauce that it was nothing like what I had before. You need to try it yourself to experience the umami.
Rants It will be risky to turn up at Nodaiwa without a reservation. I tried reserving few weeks in advance but it was already fully booked. Do check with the restaurant if it is fine to turn up without reservations especially when it just opened. I manage to secure a table at 5pm for dinner.
Will I Return Again? If you are an unagi lover, you must try Nodaiwa once. I confess that I am not the biggest unagi fan, but my experience at Nodaiwa has changed my perspective towards this dish. It was life-changing, to say the least, and I doubt I will come across a better rendition of unagi than Nodaiwa.
Taste bud: 4.5/5
Hole in the pocket: 4/5
Overall Experience: 4.5/5
1-5-4 Higashiazabu, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Lunch: 11am to 1.30pm
Dinner: 5pm to 8pm
Closed mid-August, late December-early January and Sunday
Ranted by the Ranter