Monday, 16 April 2018

Unagiya Ichinoji, Robertson Quay Singapore - First Unagi Speciality Restaurant from Japan

Talking about some of the best Unagi in Singapore, many would have first thought of popular unagi restaurants like Man Man and Uya which are both local brands. Adding on to the list, Miyagawa Honten from Japan welcomes a new contender into the buzzling area of Robertson Quay, Unagiya Ichinoji - Tokyo's most well-known unagi restaurant with a history that spans 125 years.

With 20 outlets in Japan, this is is their first outlet outside of Nihon and also the first unagi restaurant originally from Japan to be open in Singapore. It's outlet in Meguro-ku, Tokyo has been awarded Bib Gourmand in Michelin Guide Tokyo 2018. Promising as it sounds, lots of expectations are growing on me and many are thinking how do they fare to the other 2 local brands.

The menu is pretty straightforward, offering unagi bowls in various sizes (S-XL) and in 3 different styles - Hitsumabushi S$19.80, Seiro Mushi S$19.80 and Mamushi Donburi S$18.80. The bowl you see above is done in Hitsumabushi (S) at S$19.80, able to feed one pax comfortably. Hitsumabushi is a signature dish served the same way in Japan, it comes with clear dashi where you can mix into your bowl, like chazuke. Where else the other 2 styles are exclusively for Singapore's outlet only. 

All eels at Unagiya Ichinoji are first steamed then grilled on charcoal. This is the classic Mamushi Donburi S$18.80, additional Unagi Chawanmushi goes at S$23.80. It is served with Japanese yam, mentaiko, kinshi eggs and onsen egg, mix it well before eating! This is my pick among the different 3 ways, the overall mix and condiments (spicy sauce) makes a good eat.

Lastly this is the Seiro Mushi (S$19.80, with chawamushi S$24.80) style, a special version hailing from Yanagawa, Fukuoka - the unagi is first charcoal grilled, then steamed in a bamboo steamer together with the kinshi eggs and rice for 5 minutes. The rice is packed with flavours of the eels, while it doesn't quite apply to the unagi itself as it is less flavorful than expected.

All eels are marinated with sansho and kuro shichimi (seven black spices), specially imported from Kyoto. The Hitsumabushi (XL) S$77.80 is the biggest portion you can find here and can be shared among 2-3 pax. I am personally quite skeptical about unagi with prominent bones although we all know that eel bones are edible but there was a little 'boney' experience here. Or just me?

I personally enjoy the different styles of bowls here but unfortunately the eels seems to be lacking of that 'smoky charred' flavour from the charcoal grilling. Do make full use of the condiments offered at the side, it does elevate the taste to another level.

Overall, Unagiya Ichinoji marks high in terms in affordability as compared to the other contenders, Man Man did it better (have yet to try Uya) when it comes to nicely char-grilled unagi although the snake queue often make me think twice. Where else, the variety and price point here is something to consider about.

Unagiya Ichinoji
#01-05 Riverside View
30 Robertson Quay
Singapore 238251
1130am - 3pm; 530pm - 10pm daily
Tel: 6732 1970

*This was an invited media tasting while all opinions are based on our own.

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