Enter Unagiya Ichinoji, the Singapore offshoot of the 125-year-old unagi restaurant chain, Miyagawa Honten, that started out in Tsukiji in Tokyo. Its debut overseas outlet, which opens on April 12, carries a different name from the 20 Miyagawa shops across Japan. One of its outlet in Meguro-ku, Tokyo was recognised with a Bib Gourmand status in the 2018 MICHELIN Guide Tokyo. Fourth-generation owner Mr Yoshida Yoshisada decided to expand his family business to Singapore as he sees many tourists from Singapore visit his restaurants in Japan in recent years.
At the 34-seat restaurant that resembles a rustic street, the menu revolves around unagi that is served in three ways from various prefectures.
The Hitsumabushi version that hails from Nagoya (also seen in Man Man & Uya; a three-step process that involves mixing the fish with condiments, rice and dashi); Mamushi Donburi from Osaka that involves stirring Japanese yam and onsen egg into the rice bowl; and an exclusive-to-Singapore rendition, the Seiro Mushi from Fukuoka that is placed in bamboo steamers.
The live freshwater eels are imported from a Japanese-run farm in Indonesia, but good news for those squirmish about blood: the eels are slaughtered in a central kitchen instead of the restaurant. The eels, freshly stripped down to the middle, still tremble slightly from being sliced. The eels are then steamed before being dipped in mirin and tare sauce and barbecued on a charcoal grill, which yields a softer flesh with a crisp lacquered skin.
The Seiro Mushi ($19.80) which has a tender slab of grilled unagi steamed with paper-thin shredded kinshi egg and tare sauce-infused rice in a bamboo steamer for five minutes. A fragrant whiff of bamboo wafts out as lid of the wooden container is lifted to reveal chopped unagi resting on a bed of shredded egg and rice. The bamboo flavour that is more apparent in the rice than in a unagi, but the slightly sweet shredded egg gels well with the sticky caramelised sweetness of the unagi.
The Mamushi Donburi ($18.80) is a velvety tour-de-force with slimy Japanese yam puree and onsen egg that are being stirred into the rice bowl. Order this if you are more into texture as the bowl becomes quite a soggy mash and the slices of unagi loses its crisp element after being mixed. If the crackle of the unagi is crucial for you, then go for the Hitsumabushi (from $19.80) that slender slices retains some crispness the when it is fresh off the grill.
Don't forget the condiments such as the sweet-and-spicy thick sauce that coax out the flavours with a mildly spicy kick, and the kuro shicimi (seven black spices) from Kyoto that accentuates the smokiness of the grilled unagi.
Unagiya Ichinoji is at 01-05 Riverside Village Residences, 30 Robertson Quay.
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