TOKYO EATS: ANAGO

Friday - - Travel -

Unagi, or freshwater eel, is so pop­u­lar a dish in Ja­pan that stocks are in se­ri­ous de­cline. On the other hand anago – the more sub­tly flavoured salt­wa­ter eel – is rarely seen on Tokyo menus. The rich flavour of unagi comes from its oily skin and flesh, but anago (con­ger eels) are leaner, and have a softer, lighter taste.

There is, ac­cord­ing to chef Yuji Sato, only one restau­rant spe­cial­is­ing in anago left in the cap­i­tal, and it’s his. Ta­mai opened 10 years ago in the Ni­hon­bashi busi­ness dis­trict, and its tim­ber-framed build­ing is it­self a taste of times gone by. Sit­ting in sim­ple wooden booths, cus­tomers can or­der any­thing they like – so long as it’s eel. The sig­na­ture dish is hako-meshi (about Dh63): anago grilled or poached and served on a bed of rice in a lac­quer box, with condi­ments and miso. It comes with a lit­tle grater and brush for spread­ing yuzu juice and zest over the fish.

When you’ve fin­ished eat­ing the eel, a waiter ar­rives with a ket­tle of eel stock – the very wa­ter your fish was cooked in – to pour over the rice and cre­ate a rich broth. Try the starter of fried eel bones, crispy (and high-cal­cium) snacks that look like they’re made of Lego. The anago tem­pura is also ex­cel­lent, so it’s no won­der this place has long lunchtime queues. An evening reser­va­tion is the best bet, al­though the staff often want to close up around 9pm. 0081 3 6228 3103, anago-ta­mai.com.

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