One of Nagoya's famous dishes is hitsumabushi, a dish in which cut eel that's dipped and broiled in soy sauce is placed on top of rice. It's a luxurious dish that has three steps in how to eat it: first, as-is; second, you add seasonings such as green onions, wasabi, and/or nori; and third, you pour tea over it to create a dish called ochazuke. It's made differently in Kanto and Kansai, because in Kanto it's steamed before it's grilled. Here are 5 restaurants in Nagoya where you'll definitely want to try their hitsumabushi.
1. Hitsumabushi Bincho Esca Branch
Hitsumabushi Bincho uses "binchozumi," a high-grade charcoal made from ubame oak, to grill their eel. It's said that binchozumi is the best for eel, so it's a point of pride. Please enjoy this eel, grilled until the skin is crisp and the meat is soft. Also, it's close to the east side of the bullet train gates of Nagoya Station, so it's perfect for people that want to eat hitsumabushi right after arriving. Hitsumabushi is 3,100 JPY (excl. tax).
2. Maruya Honten Meieki Branch
This restaurant offers the fattiest eel available during that season after a careful selection process, and it's grilled to crispy perfection by a master chef called an "unagishi." The interior is decorated using Japanese aesthetics, and there are comfortable tables set into the floor as well as half-private rooms, so this restaurant is recommended for people that want to enjoy delicious hitsumabushi in a relaxed space. For people that just want to see what hitsumabushi is like, try the Mini-Hitsumabushi (2,035 JPY (incl. tax)), a smaller amount of food that comes complete with broth. The Jo-Hitsumabushi (with broth) is 3,065 JPY (incl. tax).
3. Kappou Unazen
While most Nagoya hitsumabushi restaurants grill their eel Kansai-style, this restaurant uses the Kanto-style and steams the eel. Because of that, it's so soft and fluffy it can be cut with a wooden spoon. It's even called the "Soft Hitsumabushi" (2,980 JPY (incl. tax)) on the menu! If you want to try a hitsumabushi that's a little different than the rest, please visit this one.
4. Shirakawa Sakae Gas Building Branch
Hitsumabushi is a very luxurious eel dish, and for that it's expensive. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to eat high-quality hitsumabushi for a slightly cheaper price? For those of you thinking that, you should try this place. They created a dish called Mabushidon (2,040 JPY (incl. tax)) with the concept of a reasonably-priced hitsumabushi, as well as a mini-hitsumabushi for 1,730 JPY (incl. tax). But rest assured that the ingredients and the chefs themselves are high-quality as well!
5. Nishiki Sanchome Ibashou
It's said that hitsumabushi originated in Nagoya during the Taisho era (1912 - 1926). One of those founding restaurants is this, Nishiki Sanchome Ibashou. Over the past 100 years, this restaurant has continued to keep the traditional tastes. For people that want to know and experience how people in Nagoya enjoyed their eel in the Taisho era, please stop by. However, it's often very crowded, so please be prepared to stand in line. Their hitsumabushi is 2,800 JPY.
Even though they're all hitsumabushi, the flavors and cooking techniques vary from restaurant to restaurant. Please try it so you can compare different shops.
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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