Thursday, 12 April 2018

Unagiya Ichinoji. Tokyo's Miyagawa Honten joins Singapore's Live Eel Frenzy

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Last night, I attended a media preview of Unagiya Ichinoji at Robertson Quay which opens to the public today (12 Apr 2018). Unagiya Ichinoji, by Tokyo chain Miyagawa Honten, is Singapore's fourth unagi restaurant to serve live eels.

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Yoshida Yoshisada, fourth generation of Miyagawa Honten was here for the grand opening. Miyagawa Honten opened its first outlet 125 years ago at Tokyo's famed Tsukiji Fish Market (in 1893). Miyagawa Honten now has 20 outlets in Japan. Miyagawa Honten's Meguro-ku outlet in Tokyo clinched a Bib Gourmand Award in this year's Michelin Tokyo Guide (2018). Unagiya Ichinoji in Singapore is Miyagawa Honten’s first overseas venture.

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Stretching two shop lots in Riverside Village Residences in Robertson Quay, Unagiya Ichinoji seats 34 pax snugly, complete with a live action, open kitchen. Personally, I am comfortable in compact Japanese restaurants as it feels more authentically urban Japan. It's just my personal feeling, there is no logic to it.

(Unagiya Ichinoji is located in the "courtyard" inside the rows of shops and restaurants at the ground level of Riverview Village Residences - so look inside, not walk around the block.)

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Unagiya Ichinoji uses export quality live eels raised in Indonesia.

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I like it that we can see live eel preparation, steaming and grilling behind the glass panels. (The splaying of slithering, flailing live eels may be distressing to some 😱) Miyagawa Honten head chef, Yokoyama Masatoshi was also in town for Unagiya Ichinoji's grand opening.

At Unagiya Ichinoji (like her sister outlets in Japan), the eels are marinated with spicy sansho pepper and kuro shichimi (blend of seven spices), lightly grilled, steamed, dipped in secret recipe sweet tasting tare sauce, and then grilled again over hot coal till the outside is caramelised. Quite an involved process.

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In the media frenzy of the evening, where dozens of fellow bloggers were hosted in two 1.5 hour shifts, I was only able to get rough impressions of Unagiya Ichinoji's three signature dishes.

There would be the initial long queues (they are not taking reservations) with all the raving media hype. I shall be back on my own account when things are calmer for a detailed tasting. Meanwhile, here's what Unagiya Ichinoji brings to Singapore's thriving live unagi scene.

Unagiya Ichinoji serves unagi in three different styles: Hitsumabushi, Seiro Mushi and Mamushi Donburi.

The Hitsumabushi is Miyagawa's signature, served in their outlets in Japan. The Seiro Mushi and Mamushi Donburi are specially designed for Unagiya Ichinoji in Singapore.

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Hitsumabushi is the Nagoya style of cooking freshwater eel.

The Hitsumabushi comes in three sizes: $19.80++ (small), $32.80++ (medium), $77.80++ (extra large).

The freshwater eel set comes with dashi (broth), nori (seaweed), wasabi and green onion.

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This extra large serving of Hitsumabushi is meant for 2-4 pax.

Hitsumabushi is eaten three ways for maximum enjoyment. First, "as is" straight from the bowl of rice and unagi. Second, eat it with nori (seaweed), wasabi and green onion. Third, eat it with dashi (clear broth of mackerel, anchovies and Hokkaido seaweed).

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In the frenzy, I could only eat the Hitsumabushi "as is". The eel was tender and juicy. I expected it to be more tender than "grilled only" eel (ala Man Man and Uya) but it was actually firmer when I bit into it. It was soft and moist outside with a firmer core inside.

The tare sauce was savoury sweet and quite mild. I could taste the natural flavour of the eel which was sweet with subtle underlying earthiness.

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Seiro Mushi is a special version hailing from Yanagawa, Fukuoka - the grilled unagi covered in sweet sauce are steamed in a bamboo steamer for 5 minutes before serving, for greater flavour and aroma.

Seiro Mushi costs $24.80++ (with Chawanmushi) or $19.80++ (without).

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Order your Seiro Mushi with Chawanmushi, if you are a steamed egg fan. Personally, I found Chawanmushi generally a bit too mild tasting for my liking (not just at Unagiya Ichinoji).

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Steaming actually took away some of the edge in flavour and texture, compared to the Hitsumabushi. If you like your unagi to taste and feel more delicate, this would be for you.

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The Osaka style Mamushi Donburi of unagi over rice.

Mamushi Donburi costs $23.80++ (with Chawanmushi)) and $18.80++ (without).

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The person who designed the Mamushi Donburi for Singapore knows our palate. It's everything thrown in – the unagi, kinshi tamago (shredded egg crepe), mentaiko (salty fermented fish roe),  yamaimo (sweet slimy mountain yam), spring onions, sweet Hokkaido rice, and onsen egg. Everything also want, also have - the Singapore way. Anything I don't like, like the subtle earthly taste is masked by the heavier flavours e.g. the mentaiko. Like that, how to lose..... . 

This is the crowd favourite perhaps because Singaporean palates generally favour a greater blend of flavours and more robust taste - like rojak lah. In fact, when I come back on my own, I will order the Mamushi Donburi. At $18.80++ (without Chawanmushi), I think it is value for money.

In the 4-corner live unagi fight in Singapore, Unagiya Ichinoji's Mamushi Donburi could be the winning card.

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Unagiya Ichinoji also has interesting unagi side dishes such as unagi bone cracker, soup of unagi liver and boiled unagi liver. I didn't get to try them during the media session but will surely order them when I come back on my own.

🎀 Please note that this was a media tasting.

My post on Man Man 👈 click

My post on Uya 👈 click

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Restaurant name: Unagi Ichinoji
Address#01-05 Riverside Village Residences, Robertson Quay, Singapore 238251
GPS 1°17'28.8"N 103°50'28.6"E | 1.291341, 103.841274
Waze: Riverside View
Tel: 6732 1970
Hours: 11:30am - 3:00pm | 5:30pm - 10:00pm

Non Halal

Date visited: 12 Apr 2018

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I share hoping that everyone will have a good time but your experience may differ from mine. I love to know how you enjoyed yourself or if you didn't.

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