Ikebukuro - Unagi Kabuto

Friday, October 9, 2009 Posted by YY on 8:33 AM

Disclaimer: This post is written by K as he has deep feelings about Unagi Kabuto

I have always wanted to try live unagi prepared and BBQ right in front of me to compare the taste from the ready-made unagis we find here in SG. After a failed trip to Irokawa in Asakusa (sold out at 6pm!), we kinda ACCIDENTALLY found out that there is actually one such shop just 100m away from our hotel!

Shop name: Unagi Kabuto

The first time we went there was around 9pm and they were sold out! The shop owner told us that they close at around 10pm. On the second attempt (the day we went to Tsukiji for the Bon Dance Festival), we went there at around 8pm and the shop was almost full house. We were lucky to have 2 seats right in front of the grill and chopping board to see all the action going on.

Wife of the owner, she is in charge of serving the customers everything except the unagi dishes.

Jovial boss at work! The boss jokes and talks with his customers, and even "scolds and curses" them like they were long time friends. At the same time, you can see his dedication and concentration in making the best unagi for his customers. This is why I like this place.

As the menu was all in Japanese, we had some trouble ordering the food. Luckily there was a Japanese couple who was able to speak English. With their help, we were able to get our orders taken. Wee!

First dish (Appetiser) - Fresh tomatoes with natural salt as a dip. Really juicy and sweet with a tinge of sourness, these tomato slices taste even better with some salt!

Next - A set of 7 skewered Unagi parts BBQed to perfection that we think will NEVER be able to find in SG. From top left, going clockwise: Unagi neck, fins, unagi liver BBQed with salt, unagi entrails. There is one more skewer consisting of the meat from the unagi tail tip (not in picture).

Another look of the boss concentrating on BBQ-ing the unagi right in front of us.
As part of our order includes the Unagi Jyu(Unagi with rice), we were wondering if this is our order that is cooking in front of us...and if so, it means we don't get to see any live eel gutting action =(((

But luckily it wasn't =D

Only upon receiving orders from the customers will the boss take out live unagis from below the chopping board to gut them and BBQ them immediately.

A tub of 2 unagis still alive. One of them will be our dinner =D.

Look at the speed and precision of the boss in gutting the unagi. The bones are still moving after the unagi is gutted. YY was totally squeamish at the sight of this and you can actually hear her say "The bones are still moving! The bone the bone the bone the bone!" in the clip LOL~~YY is so cute!

In this video, the boss offered me the still-beating heart of the unagi! Being adventurous and thinking to myself this should be the ONLY time I can try this, I accepted the challenge immediately. I put the heart on my tongue and swallowed it immediately. Strangely, I do not feel squeamish at all. The taste of the heart? NO TASTE. Not even fishy.

Boss poking satay sticks across the meat to prepare them for BBQ.

See the colour difference of the unagis? The boss then told us that the more greenish ones are caught from natural waters and the grayish ones are farmed. SO MUCH difference in colour.

Boss sets off to work again. He will BBQ the eel till about 70% cooked, then dip the eels into his self-made unagi gravy pot, BBQ again, dip, BBQ, dip, BBQ until the desired colour is obtained. Prior to serving us the rice, the boss uses a small scoop with 3 spouts and drizzles the same gravy from the pot into the rice and then lay the BBQed unagi on top of the rice.

Finished product - Unagi Jyu.
The above meat consists of the body and tail area.(We didn't know at first -.-'')The gravy is not too salty and overwhelming as the sauce you find in SG. Instead, the sauce is light in flavour but able to bring out the falvour of the unagi and complements the rice perfectly. OH SO HEAVENLY.

The boss taught us how to divide the unagi for fair sharing! You DO NOT take one piece and your partner take the other piece. The correct way is the split each piece into 2 lengthwise and each one take one piece of each. By doing so, each person will be able to get a piece of the tail part, which the boss said is more tasty.

We were served a portion of clear soup boiled with one portion of unagi intestine and some chopped shiso leaves.

After the dinner, the lady boss served each of us a cup of damn tasty and fragrant roasted green tea (煎绿茶) to make this dinner even more perfect.

The dinner ended at 9.30pm (took a total of 1.5 hours) for a seemingly simple but yet so special dinner.

Total damage? When we called for the bill, the boss actually took out an abacus and calculated the total and showed me the abacus. Hahaha~ he thought I won't be able to read the abacus, but I did and took out 3000 yen. After the dinner, I regretted not ordering the Shiroyaki (白焼) meaning BBQ unagi without any sauces and eating the unagi with two different kinds of salt at this place. I will definitely be back to order this!

Only 2,970 yen, which is about S$46. Most of the Unagi specialty shops were selling just the Unagi Jyu for no less than 3000yen, so this shop is considered quite cheap already.

Totally worth it considering the quality and quantity! We will be back~

The menu is only available in Japanese and the couple speaks almost no english.

It's actually diagonally opposite Sakura Hostel(Ikebukuro) and there's this shop named Nippondo near it.

View Unagi Kabuto in a larger map


Comment by james n hazel on November 21, 2010 at 4:25 AM

i would love to visit this place but was wondering do they serve unagi throughout all the seasons? are u guys staying in sakura hotel?

Comment by Inkmaginarium on November 28, 2010 at 7:18 PM

Hi James n hazel, I just got back from Tokyo and have patronized this shop as well on my last night, so I believed they do serve unagi throughout the year. However please note that our damage was 6800 yen for 1 kaba yaki (unagi wif sauce) and 1 shiro yaki (without sauce) though...Hope that helps!

Comment by Sam Timinsky on January 7, 2013 at 6:10 AM

Just had this today and the experience was amazing. Should be noted that the prices have gone up recently. With four glasses of sake the bill was 16,100 yen. Totally worth the money.

Comment by Cupcakes by Sonja on February 3, 2015 at 3:31 PM

Hi! Love reading this entry. Did you do a wall in or did you have reservations made prior to going?
Thank you!


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