To get to Kawachiya we traveled by train to the Shibamata Station located in Katsushikaku-ku, in the east of Tokyo. It takes about 1 hour to get there by train from the Shinjuku Station, or about 40 minutes from the Ueno Station.
The restaurant is about a 3-minute walk from the station. To get there you get to walk through an amazing traditional shopping arcade. There are few of this kind of streets still remaining in Tokyo. Like many shops around it, the restaurant has a beautiful traditional Japanese architecture and many lanterns hang from the eaves. The place must be even more beautiful at night.
The restaurant is really spacious and peaceful. In the back, there are large windows from which you can see a Japanese-style interior courtyard.
We were invited in the kitchen so get a first-hand look at how our unagi was done.
At first, the unagi is tenderized by being placed in a wooded steamer for a few minutes.
Holding the unagi with wooden skewers, the chef then dipped the tenderized eel in a tare sauce (a thick sweet soy sauce).
The next step was to broil the unagi until its exterior becomes dark brown and crisp. It was re-dipped in tare a few times while being broiled.
As is often the case for eel dishes, they are served in a rectangular box. This dish is called unaju.
The two pieces of eel were placed on a bed of rice. We had the first taste and it did not disappoint! The outer part was made slightly crisp by the broiling with the tare and the inside was really soft. It had just the right balance of sweetness and saltiness.
Next, we tried it with some sansho spice. Sansho is a Japanese spice that is often used on unagi. It is made from a citrus tree and the taste is lemony and spicy. It makes a pleasant tingling sensation in your mouth. But be careful not to put too much, as the taste can be overpowering.
With the unaju, we were also served this simple yet delicious soup which contains fried tofu and the eel's liver. There was also a small serving of Japanese pickles and green tea. All these elements worked perfectly together to make an amazing dining experience. The unaju set is sold for 2,800 yen (small size), 3,300 yen (medium) and 4,000 yen (large).
Unagi is a kind of Japanese delicacy you should definitely try. It is so delicious when made properly. Kawachiya knows how to make it just right! We highly recommend you visit this restaurant. What's more, Kawachiya is located on a very quaint, old shopping street really worth visiting!