Translated by Greg
Kanda Kikuwa - Try Delicious Grilled Eel Right In The Heart Of Tokyo
Written by Satomi Echigoya
Today we introduce a well established unagi (eel) shop in Tokyo called Kanda Kikuwa. This shop specializes in Edomae unagi, a style of eel preparation unique to the Kanto area, and one that differs from the Kansai region.
Unagi (grilled eel), is a food that has come to be widely eaten in Japan since the Edo period. Even today, during the period that runs from the latter part of July until the early part of August, on a day called Doyo no Ushi no Hi (*1), the custom of eating unagi continues.
Along with Edomae sushi, this is a flavor that has been loved by the common people in Japan since those early days.
*1 Doyo no Ushi no Hi: in Japanese, doyo refers to the 18-19 day period preceding the change of seasons, and ushi meaning ox, is one of 12 zodiac signs in Chinese astrology. So Ushi no Hi essentially means day of the ox, a day on which people are encouraged to eat unagi (eel) in order to combat summer fatigue and a lack of appetite.
Kanda Kikuwa - A Superb Flavor That Never Changes
Kanda Kikuwa, a long standing Edo style eel restaurant that first opened in 1947, is located right near Exit 5 of Kanda Station (Ginza Line).
The owners added "Edomae" to their shop's name in order to distinguish between the different methods of grilling unagi in the Kansai region and the Kanto region.
For starters, in the Kansai region , unagi are first cut open from the stomach area, whereas in the Kanto region, unagi are cut open starting from the back area. Historically, many samurai living in the former Edo area (present-day Tokyo) had a strong dislike for the word seppuku (*2), hence unagi were prepared by first making an incision in the back instead of the stomach area.
The Edo-style of unagi has two different kinds of preparation. In one method, the unagi is grilled as is, with no seasoning (shirayaki), after it's cut and cleaned. In the other method, the unagi is first steamed, then allowed to sit for a short while before being dipped in a sauce and grilled, resulting in a characteristically soft texture.
With the Kansai-style however, the unagi is not steamed but only grilled, resulting in a crispy outside texture.
The inside of Kanda Kikuwa exudes a confident, established kind of atmosphere. Though reservations aren't taken here, there's a first and second floor, and during the week if your timing is right, you can usually get a seat fairly soon.
*2 Seppuku: was a form of Japanese ritual suicide by disembowelment, originally reserved for samurai.
The unagiju (a box of rice topped with eel) set meal also comes with clear Japanese soup, pickles, and even dessert.
When you lift open the lid of the box, there's so much eel on top that you can barely see the rice below it, apparently something that Kanda Kikukawa is famous for. The shop has been adamant about maintaining this trademark ever since they first opened for business many years ago.
With a superb taste that even exceeds its beautiful appearance and eel that's so soft and plump that it can be cut with chopsticks, it's no wonder that customers never get tired of this dish and can finish off the meal completely.
In addition to unagiju, the shop menu allows customers to fully enjoy eel by also serving eel liver, deep-fried eel bones, and even unagi ham.
The time to eat unagi is when you feel like eating it. So on your next visit to Tokyo, please drop in for some fresh Edomae unagi at long standing shop, Kanda Kikuwa.
Address: Tokyo, Chiyoda, Kanda, Sudacho 1-24-2
Access: 1 minute on foot from exit 5 of Kanda Station (Tokyo Metro Ginza Subway Line), 3 minutes on foot from north exit of Kanda Station (JR Yamanote Line), 4 minutes on foot from exit A1 of Awajicho Station (Toei Shinjuku Subway Line).
Holidays: Closed on Mondays.
Hours of operation: Tuesday-Friday 11:00-21:00 (L.O. 20:20), Saturday,Sunday, holidays 11:00-20:30 (L.O. 19:50)
Official homepage: http://www.kanda-kikukawa.co.jp (Japanese)