Miyagawa Honten, which specialises in unagi (freshwater eel), opened its first outlet in Tsukiji 125 years ago and is now in the hands of the fourth generation. There are currently 20 outlets in Japan and their outlet at Meguro-ku, Tokyo has recently clinched the Bib Gourmand by the Michelin Guide in 2018. Unagiya Ichinoji by Miyagawa Honten, situated at Robertson Quay, is the first ever overseas outpost of the unagi-specialty restaurant. This is the third unagi restaurant in Singapore, after Man Man and Uya.
The Singapore outpost is helmed by a Japanese head chef who has trained for three months for the position. The eel here, like Uya’s version, employs the Kansai style which is steamed before grilling, whereas Man Man uses the Kanto style of grilling directly. Like Man Man and Uya, Unagiya Ichinoji uses their special inhouse tare (sweet basting sauce). The eels are marinated with sancho pepper and kuro shichimi (seven black spices) imported from Kyoto.
They serve different versions of unagi. And their signature and the best we had that night, hitsumabushi, comes in various portions from S ($19.80, pictured above) to XL ($77.80), the most affordable of the three unagi restaurants in Singapore. Hitsumabushi is eating unagi in three ways: on its own, with condiments, and with soup. Their version of hitsumabushi is not bad at all, but among the three restaurants, this is my least favourite. It isn’t as bold as Man Man’s seriously charred unagi and it doesn’t have as clean a bite as Uya’s. There is hardly any char, which comes across as tame, and the texture isn’t as tender as Man Man’s. Although they use Hokkaido rice, I find it starchy and hard. I want to emphasise that it isn’t terrible, it is just ordinary.
Hitsumabushi (L, $32.80)
Hitsumabushi (XL, $77.80)
For the Singapore outlet, Unagiya Ichinoji has implemented two new dishes on the menu, seiro mushi ($19.80) and mamushi donburi ($18.80).
Seiro Mushi (pictured above) is a version from traditionally from Yanagawa, Fukuoka. Instead of steaming first then grilling, the unagi is first grilled then steamed in a bamboo steamer with kinshi egg and rice for five minutes before serving. This one is bland. No fEELs.
In Osaka, eel rice is called mamushi (and most of us should know “donburi” means rice bowl), so the mamushi donburi (pictured above) is a rice bowl of Japanese yam puree, mentaiko, kinshi eggs, and onsen eggs; all mixed together before eating. The Japanese yam has made the texture sticky like glutinous rice and given the rice bowl a nice sweetness. But still, taste-wise, you won’t be whatsapping your pals about it.
Unagiya Ichinoji is our third most favourite unagi restaurant in Singapore. The food is ok, palatable, edible, but lacks the WOW factor of Man Man and the obsessive adherence to reproducible formulas at Uya. The winning factor at Unagiya Ichinoji is their price point.
Robertson Quay, #01-05 Riverside View, Singapor 238251
tel: +65 6732 1970
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Written by Dr. A. Nathanael Ho.