Translated by Collin Radford
Double Layered Unaju At Tateyama's "Shimatsu" - In Business Since the Edo Period
Written by 森山 あみか
Tateyama, located in the southern side of the Boso Peninsula in Chiba, is well known for its warm temperatures, broccolini flowers in the spring, and diving and marine sports in the summer. But above all else, it's known for its delicious seafood.
It is a sight-seeing spot an hour and a half from Tokyo on the Tokyo Wan Aqua Line Expressway, and over the Umi Hotaru parking area. We'd like to introduce a popular local unagi (freshwater eel) restaurant.
We are Drawn by the Inviting Scent
The shinise (the Japanese term for a shop that has continued for many generations) "Shinmatsu" (新松) is about 15 minutes from the Tateyama Station. It has been in business since the Edo Period -- a total of five generations. The craftsman can be seen at work through the open window, where he roasts unagi with a stolid expression.
There's a smokey, but great smell. It smells so good its not even fair; it's almost frustrating. There's no doubt that most people get a whiff and just wonder right inside.
You take off your shoes at the entrance, put them into a box, and enter.
They use Kishu Binchou charcoal (紀州備長炭) when roasting the eel. The taste is dependent on carefully selected charcoal.
Climb the red stairs to enter the seating area.
The lanterns hanging from the ceiling and hallway separated by sliding doors is reminiscent of a traditional Japanese building.
According to the written explanation, the menu is limited to a few items during periods when it's expected to get busy.
"Umaki", eel wrapped at the center of atsuyaki tamago, "Uzaku", pickled bite-sized eel and cucumber slices, and yakitori cooked right next to the eel are among the popular items.
But setting all of that aside, we're at "Shinmatsu", so the first thing on the menu for us is the unaju. (Unaju is broiled eel served over rice.) We're told that it will take about 20 minutes.
The Same Delicious Eel the Samurai Ate
And it finally arrives. We selected the super ultra-choice for our meal. You get butterflies just thinking of opening the lid.
The coloring of the sauce is beautiful. It also comes with Takuan (pickled radish) and melon. There is also a side of eel liver soup, with shitake, takenoko, and mitsuba to make the aroma feel fuller.
As you eat, you begin to notice that this particular unaju has not only one, but two layers of eel and rice. It feels like almost a waste to try to finish it. To youngsters on diets and older folks trying to keep in shape, I would still recommend trying out just this dish.
The eels are all caught in Japan, from places such as Aichi, Kagoshima and Hamamatsu. There is also a live tank in-store, where you can see live eels wriggling as they swim.
As the prices have gone up, the super ultra-choice is 3500 yen, while the single layer ultra-choice is 3100 yen. We believe that the super-ultra provides more bang for your buck. For those who aren't so hungry, there is the regular, at 2600 yen.
The elderly lady calling out "irasshai" as you enter the seating area, and the friendly young clerk make for a kind, family-like atmosphere. They may only speak Japanese, but you get to see the live eels and the cook working over the charcoal, and above all else - it is delicious.
Why not take a trip out of the big city for some eel?
Address: Chiba-ken, Tateyama-shi, Kitajou 1561-3
Business Hours: 11:00~14:00(Last Order 14:00), 16:30~21:00(Last Order 20:00)
Scheduled Holidays: None (Holidays are unscheduled)
Accepted Credit Cards: None
Language Accessibility: Japanese only
Access: 15 minute walk from JR Uchibou Line "Tateyama Station"
Price Range: 2600 yen and up
Phone Number: 0470-22-0472
Official Website: http://shinmatu5.web.fc2.com/