Restaurant Jubako, named after a lacquered bento box, is a speciality eel restaurant in Akasaka that has been in business since 1790. It has been at its current premises since 1955 after moving from Asakusa. Its owner, Mr Otani Shinichiro, is the eighth generation of his family to run the place. It is set in a quiet side street, with a sliding gate and then a few stone steps up to the entrance. It has private rooms rather than a single dining room or counter, generally with sunken seating (though you can have western style seating by prior request). Waitresses wear traditional costume. Our particular room looked out on to a pretty garden and was otherwise decorated just by a framed piece of calligraphy on one wall.
The set meal started with two pieces of grilled freshwater eel sushi, served with good pickled ginger. This was followed by a skewer of grilled eel liver, which tastes, as you might expect, of both liver and eel, with a slightly bitter flavour note. Next was miso soup with a single piece of koi carp (a remarkably bony fish), the soup unusually rich and packed with flavour.
The main event was a lacquer box containing traditional grilled eel with sweet sauce called kabayaki made from the eel liver, sweet soy, mirin and sugar, served with rice and pickles. The meal was completed with a dessert of red bean ice cream served between two wafers. Service was charming, and the bill, with a beer apiece, came to £101 each. This is quite a lot, but of course to an extent you are paying for the private room with garden view, not just the food itself. Much as it was a very pleasant experience, I could not really detect any significant difference between the eel here and that I have eaten at other establishments such as Nodaiwa. Perhaps there are limits to what extent grilled eel can be really differentiated, or perhaps my palate was insufficiently acute. However, if you want to eat your eel in an atmospheric, traditional setting then this is certainly the place to do it.