Lunch @ Obana 尾花 (Tokyo, Japan)

March 7, 2017 in Japanese

And no trip to Japan is complete without a meal of grilled sea eel (unagi)! =)

However, having troubled my hotel to make several restaurant reservations, I decided to head down to one where I could simply walk in. And Obana was one such restaurant. In fact, Michelin-starred Obana does not take any reservation.

Obana was a 10 to 12 minutes walk from Minami-Senju metro station. Even though I was using google map on my mobile, I got a little confused. But as a guide, one would be walking on the road beside the train track to get to Obana. Once one is on that road, one would see directional stickers of Obana stuck on the lamp posts. But it was really the aroma of the grilled sea eel which assured me that I was on the right track.

After entering through the gate, one would need to join the queue where customers lined by sitting on benches which were placed to form a big U. As it was still winter, the queueing customers weren’t forming a proper line. Instead, they were gathering in front of the portable heaters. But thankfully Obana had staff coming out from time to time to ‘check’ on customers who had newly joined the queue. And it’s to this staff that we inform the size of our dining group.

And when it is one’s turn to be seated, the staff would come out and inform. I arrived at 12pm and was shown into the restaurant within 30 minutes. Upon entering, I was given a number tag. This number tag was what’s used to identify my shoes which I had to remove before entering the seating area.

Once I sat at my (tatami) seat, I was given the menu. And everything was ‘fast, fast, fast’; Barely 2 minutes and the staff was kneeling beside me, waiting to take my order. And from the menu (pages 1, 2), I ordered:-

1) Umaki, ¥2400 (above) – Grilled eel wrapped in omelet. This was simply wonderful! Served piping hot, the omelette that wrapped the grilled eel was very fluffy and moist. A must order.

2) Shirayaki, ¥4300 (above) – Plain grilled eel with soy sauce and wasabi (horseradish).

3) Unaju, ¥4300 (medium) (above) – Grilled eel with teriyaki sauce on a bed of rice.. Serving was generous. I can’t imagine how large would have looked like.

4) Kimosui, ¥400 (above) – Clear soup with eel liver. I simply had to order this because I noticed every local ordered the soup to go with their sea eel-rice set. It’s as though these 2 dishes were to be consumed together. Peer Customer pressure? Keke.

My verdict? Highly recommended! It may be a little far for those staying in areas like Shinjuku. But hey! I say Obana is still easily accessible as they are located within walking distance from the nearest metro station.

Do order the yakitori (traditional Japanese grilled chicken) from the menu too. My neighboring tables ordered it, and the chunky pieces of heavily marinated chicken looked so good! I would have ordered some to try if I had stomach space left. Only con of travelling alone. Stomach space too small to try many stuff.

5-33-1 Minamisenju, Arakawa, Tokyo, Japan (東京都 荒川区 南千住 5-33-1)
+81 3 3801 4670, Tablelog
Overall: 8
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Tues – Sun : 11:30 – 13:30 (Lunch)
Ambience: 8
Tues – Sun : 16:00 – 19:30 (Dinner)
Value: 8
Service: 8
* Closed on Mon

UPDATE 1: Restaurant was awarded 1 Michelin star by Michelin Guide Tokyo 2018.
UPDATE 2: Restaurant was awarded 1 Michelin star by Michelin Guide Tokyo 2019.

Lunch @ Man Man Unagi Restaurant

January 25, 2017 in Japanese

I reckon most people, or foodies at least, would have heard about Man Man by now. Opened by the same group behind Teppei and Hana Hana, Man Man specialises in freshwater eel (unagi). And behind the charcoal stove is head chef Nakagawa who has 20 years experience of grilling these freshwater eels. I kid you not. One needs to have skill to grill these.

And I read that the supply at Man Man comes from Mikawa Isshiki region which is famous for high quality freshwater eel.

Was in the area with a friend one night and thought of heading over for dinner. And it was a good thing we called first because they were sold out. And after knowing that my crossfitters were keen in checking the place, we headed down for lunch after our Saturday morning class. Keke.

Located in the back alley, we arrived at 1.30pm and were surprised to see a long queue. We thought 1.30pm was considered non-peak. But I guess we were wrong. And so we queued for almost 40 minutes before we got a table for 6 people.

And from the menu (pages 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6), we ordered:-

1) Unagi bone crackers, $6 (above)


2) Umaki, $12.80 (above)

3) Shirayaki, $24.80 (above) – Broiled & seasoned with salt.

4) Una don, $25.80 (medium) (above) – Unagi, tamagoyaki, soup, pickles.

5) Una don, $32.80 (large) (above) – Unagi, tamagoyaki, soup, pickles.

6) Hitsumabushi, $26.80 (above) – Unagi, soup, pickles, broth, spices. Unlike my dining experience at Chikuyotei where I was given a slip of paper, instructions were given verbally at Man Man. And that’s only if the busy staff remember to ask if it’s one’s first time trying the dish. Hitsumabushi can be enjoyed in 3 ways. Start by dividing rice into 4 portions. Enjoy first portion with eel and rice. Second, eel and rice mixed with spring onion, seaweed and freshly grated wasabi. Third portion is same as second’s, but with additional dashi soup. And for the last portion, one can enjoy it in one’s preferred way.

I am happy to say Man Man is one restaurant that’s worth the long queueing time! Sea eel was slightly charred (in a nice way, of course) on the outside, yet tender on the inside. Superb. And the price is easy on one’s purse too!

However, the restaurant was poorly designed in terms of space utilization and ventilation. They probably were not expecting such a big turn out because tanks containing the sea eels which were placed on the floor near the entrance would have allowed for additional 3 tables (6 to 7 seats). We reckoned they should put the tanks at the back of house, and leave just one glass tank (within the dining area) for customers to view the live eels. You know, like what most Chinese restaurants would do. Keke. And for a restaurant with lots of grilling, I am surprised the unit’s ventilation was inadequately designed for. I kid you not when I say my crossfitters and I were greeted with smoke when we entered the restaurant. So yes, one will smell after dining at Man Man.

I thought I should also add that their grilled sea eel is only good when head chef Nakagawa is in charge of the grilling. My friend, who’s very impressed with the food, was left disappointed during her third visit. Apparently, head chef Nakagawa wasn’t in that day and the restaurant got another a random staff to stand in.

1 Keong Saik Road, #01-01, Singapore
6222 0678
Overall: 7
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Mon – Sat : 11:30 – 15:00 (Lunch)
Ambience: 6
Mon – Sat : 18:00 – 22:30 (Dinner)
Value: 7
Service: 7
* Closed on Sun

Lunch @ Hashimoto はし本 (Tokyo, Japan)

November 21, 2016 in Japanese

Japanese cuisine is more than just sashimi, sushi and tempura. I love grilled eel (unagi) and was determined to have variety in my food quest in Tokyo.

And while doing my research, it took me by surprise to learn Japan Michelin Guide has its rating on unagi restaurants too! So together with information from Time Out Tokyo and Tablelog, I narrowed down to a few restaurants. But what made me decide on Hashimoto was a YouTube video which I chanced upon.

As extracted from Japan Michelin Guide website, Hashimoto which was founded in 1835 is run by 6th generation chef-owner. The recipe for the somewhat salty sauce has been passed down from generation to generation and the chef-owner says he look for strong tasting unagi that will go well with the sauce.

My IGGF (InstaGram GirlFriend) was in Tokyo the same period as me (well, I chose to coincide our trips. Keke), and Hashimoto was one of the restaurants we decided to meet for lunch. While one could walk in, we played it safe by making reservation with the help of my IGGF’s Japanese colleague. Thank goodness they accept overseas reservation. =)

Not exactly located centrally in Tokyo (Ie, 30 minutes metro ride from Tokyo station), Hashimoto is a short 3 to 5 minutes walk from Edogawabashi metro station. Upon arrival, we decided to go with tatami seats instead of table seats. Not the best choice though; I sprained my ankle during my morning jog around Imperial Palace and it was a hassle painful to remove and wear my shoes.

And we were glad they had English menu. 1 of the staff could speak pretty good English too. And from the menu, we ordered:-

1) Hire, ¥250 (above, right) – Eel’s fin.

2) Mukoubone, ¥250 (above, left) – Eel’s ribs. Do be careful of the bones!

3) Hone, ¥250 (above) – Fried eel’s bone.

4) Shirayaki, ¥2600 (small) (above) – Eel without sauce.

5) Kabayaki, ¥2600 (small) (above)

6) Unajyu, ¥3300 (regular) (above) – We were surprised that 1 of the 3 pickled vegetables was treated with sake! I like! Hee.

7) Kimosui, ¥300 (above) – Plain soup with eel’s stomach.

My IGGF and I loved the homely vibe of Hashimoto and the fuss-free nature of our meal. Ie, No lengthy fancy course as we were on a tight (afternoon) itinerary. Keke. And the grilled eel was exactly how we imagined it to be; Tasty, tender and fluffy.

If one don’t mind travelling since it’s a little out of the way, I definitely recommend Michelin-starred Hoshimoto as it’s also one of the few with a friendlier-on-purse price.

2-5-7 Suido, Bunkyo, Tokyo, Japan (東京都 文京区 水道 2-5-7)
+81 3 3811 4850, Website, Tablelog
Overall: 7.5
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Mon – Wed, Fri – Sun : 11:30 – 14:00 (L.O.)
Ambience: 7
Mon – Wed, Fri – Sun : 16:30 – 19:30 (L.O.)
Value: 8
Service: 7
* Closed on Thur