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Nodaiwa

1-5-4 Higashi-Azabu, Minato-Ku, Tokyo, 106-0044, Japan

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This is a specialist unagi (freshwater eel) restaurant, using eels caught in the wild rather than ones that are farmed, at least during the season from mid-April through to December; the eels are sourced from the areas of Shimane, Okayama, and Ariake. It is a family-owned restaurant, the current owner Mr Kanemoto being the fifth generation to run the business, which has been in continuous operation since 1850. The restaurant is in a timber storehouse transplanted from the countryside (from Takayama in Gifu prefecture in central Japan), and is sandwiched between modern high-rise buildings, near the Tokyo tower in Minato-ku. As well as the downstairs room, there is a private dining room upstairs with tatami mats rather than chairs. Nodaiwa opened a branch of the same name in Paris in 1996.

The lunch menu that we chose had a nibble followed by two courses. Cubes of jellied eel bore little resemblance to the dish served in the East End of London, having a lot of eel flavour. The first course was shirayaki, eel that was lightly steamed and grilled. This was served with wasabi, salt and soy, as the eel itself had quite subtle flavour. The main course was the classic unaju, eel that is grilled and served on a bed of rice with a kabayaki sauce made from the eel liver, sweet soy, mirin and sugar, served in a pretty lacquer box. This was very good, the kabayaki sauce having flavoured the rice.

The bill came to ¥13,640 for two i.e. £45 a head with just water to drink. The service was friendly, one waitress speaking a little English. I find restaurants like this, which take essentially one thing and do it well, hard to score. The eel here was certainly very good, but it is inherently a quite simple thing to cook, so hard to compare with, say, a place serving complex French food. However Nodaiwa certainly does what it does very well.

 

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