Uya う屋 四代目菊川 at Wheelock: Fourth Generation Owner of Unagi Restaurant Opens in Singapore

Japanese restaurant Uya at Wheelock Place, which serves unagi (eels), is a partnership between chef-owner Yuhei Kikukawa and Shin Foods. Yuhei Kikukawa is the fourth generation family head of  a wholesaler of unagi for over 90 years and owner of unagi and other Japanese cuisine restaurants in Nagoya, Japan. Shin Foods is the umbrella group of Shunjuu Izakaya, Koji Sushi, and the now defunct Satsume Shochu.

For their unagi, they use bigger eels than other restaurants. Like abalone, eels go by weight. When you say 2-head abalone, it means it takes 2 abalones to make up a kg. And 2-head abalone is more expensive than 4-head abalone because it takes longer time to grow in size. Similarly, most restaurants use 4 eels/kg but Uya uses 3 eels/kg.

Uya follows the same eel suppliers as Kikukawa’s unagi restaurant in Nagoya. They choose eels from China, Taiwan, and Japan, depending on the season. Currently, they are using Taiwanese eels. They import their eels live.

But besides unadon or unagi don, they also serve other rice bowls including tempura rice bowl ($23) and wagyu rice bowl ($27), which is just ok for us.

They also serve side dishes like the crispy bone ($6) of unagi, which is great as bar grub–very addictive, I finished it by myself–but I’m not sure if I’ll pay $6 for a few pieces.

The unagi liver can be served two ways: grilled liver ($9, pictured below) or poached liver ponzu ($9, pictured above).  The grilled liver is coated their homemade unagi sweet sauce and has a nice bite, slighter harder than poached version.

The poached liver is softer and tenderer but it is also quite bland. While I preferred the grilled version, Mr Fitness liked the poached one because it’s light with soy sauce.

The oyster tempura (3 pcs, $12) is wrapped with shiso leaf and is accompanied with a condiment of salt. I usually like oysters done in tempura style but somehow the oysters here aren’t as loaded with juices as the ones I had elsewhere.

The sashimi ($35 standard/$50 premium) is of good quality, firm and not fishy. (Photo shows premium version.) Worth adding a $15 to upgrade from standard because there is uni and chutoro in the premium plate.

Lastly, of course, their signature, hitsumabushi ($35 medium, $48 large, photo shows large). Including Chikuyotei, Man Man, and Unagidokoro Takahashi in Hokkaido–the latter two restaurants were awarded Bib Gourmand by the Michelin Guide–Uya is the fourth restaurant that I visited to focus on unagi.

Obviously, given how popular Man Man is, it invites the question of how Uya compares to Man Man. The diplomatic answer is they are different. Man Man has a masculine bold char that hits you whereas Uya is more subtle and well-balanced and gentle. If you don’t like sweet food, Uya offers a less sweet version from Man Man’s.

But this site isn’t known for diplomacy so here it goes. Uya is good. It uses great quality eels, and the sauce has been their secret family recipe for 90 years. They use koshihikari rice from Niigata, which is my favourite variety of rice. But somehow, the rice here isn’t as fluffy and moist as the one I cook at home. (Meidi-ya at Liang Court sells this rice, and when it is on discount, it’s worth buying.)

Although Uya is good, my first instinct is that I prefer Man Man because when I ate at Man Man, it hit me viscerally; I went WOW and was deeply impressed. When I had time to think about it, I like Man Man’s masculine boldness because it’s distinctive, different from other unagi restaurants’ versions. Man Man’s whole mouthfeel—the rice with the eel–is also fuller and better.

That said, Uya is good on its own right–really, no complaints–and some people may prefer a less sweet version of unadon. And another point to Uya: they accept reservations.


Uya う屋 四代目菊川
Wheelock Place, 501 Orchard Road, #02-15/16, Singapore 238880
Tel: +65 6732 1096
Daily 12pm-2.30pm; Sun-Th 6pm-9.30pm, F & Sat 6pm-10pm

Food: 6.75/10
Price/value: 5.75/10
Ambience/decor: 7/10

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Written by Dr. A. Nathanael Ho.

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