Let’s talk eel (unagi)

My Japanese family lives in an area of Tokyo called Kunnitachi .

It is in the west side of the city and has been featured in various anime movies including Wolf children, and Pom Poco. It is a quiet residential area with a scale that makes you forget that you are in one of the busiest cities in the world.

There are many great things I could talk about, but I will choose to discuss one i particularly love: Una-chan, a tiny family run restaurant dedicated to eels situated behind the railway station.

Una-chan is currently run by the son of the original restaurant owner, who is a local guy that went to school with my husband, his brother and sister. It only serves eels. I calculated that around 6 different skewers using parts of the eels that you would not even think about. They also, have a couple of side salads to accompany. There is sake ( hot and cold) beer, and Shochu to drink, which is served in parallel by a lady that takes no note but remembers precisely every order and who totals costs on her abacus (yes).

The doors open at 4 and there are between 13 to 15 seats arranged around the cooking grill. When the doors open, people sit, and the chef begins to serve , the same dish, to each customer. After all dishes are served, the first round of seaters give way to the next. And this goes on until the food runs out. Which it does… Every day. This is why if you travel to Japan, you should take your Chuo line train towards Tachikawa and visit! If you succeed, I would also recommend that after Una-chan you pop by at the bohemian cafe Loghina, situated in the little streets opposite the station to have a lovely ice coffee or ice-cream.

And if Una-chan is full, I also have a more upmarket brilliant suggestion.

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Continuing to Tachikawa, you may go to the 9th floor of the Mitsukoshi building, the so called Tachikawa garden terrace, where you will find this unagi specialised restaurant. It was my mother in law’s favourite and also has a branch in Ginza.

(Tachikawa is also feature in animes… Last reference I have seeing was at Library war: the wings of revolution)

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The local speciality is eel, but you will also be able to enjoy wonderful dishes such as squid sashimi with two types of flowers which is utterly delicious.

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And a sashimi platter with edible flowers which is also worth mentioning for that it is incredible.

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The omelette roll unagi is delicious. You probably have tested the sweet omelette at some point, but this proposes a very interesting twist worth tasting.

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Not until you taste this kind of skewer with all the bitter bits of the eels you can fully appreciate the complexity of the Japanese flavouring. I will not describe what it is for nobody to feel prejudistic , but only say that you should give this a go.

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The seaweed and eel warm salad is a fantastic dish. Easy on the eye and the pallet.

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Finally, the wonderful Kabayaki set (which includes an eel soup, grilled eel on rice and pickles) will absolutely blow you away. I have to admit that it is a lot of food, so please be mindful when ordering, or let this become your meal of the day. It is definitely worth it!

Spanish translation featured in “Historias de una cocina Londinense

Photography and sketches by Cristina Lanz-Azcarate

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