Eel is a popular dish in Japan, especially in summer. It is believed to give you stamina so as to better endure the summer heat. Moreover, grilled eel is a Nagoya speciality.
Needless to say I was excited when my friend Mari-san proposed to go to the most famous eel restaurant in Nagoya: Hōraiken. It’s so popular that we had to wait for almost an hour before being seated, while it was just a regular Tuesday at lunchtime. In the weekend there is supposed to be a 2 or 3 hour wait.
I ordered the most popular dish on the menu, which is the Nagoya speciality: Hitsumabushi. It’s a special kind of unadon. Unadon is a bowl of rice topped off with grilled eel covered in sweet soy sauce. What makes hitsumabushi different from regular unadon is the seasoning.
On the picture above you can see the seasoning in the three squares on the top of the tray and in the red flask. The bowl of rice with the eel on top is on the bottom right and in the middle there’s some soup and pickled vegetables.
There’s a special procedure involved in eating hitsumabushi:
1) First you take about 1/4th of the rice and eel, put it in the little white and blue bowl and eat it just like that.
2) Next you take another serving of eel and rice and season it with nori strips, wasabi and green onion.
3) For the third serving you use the same seasoning but you also pour hot tea on top of it.
4) The fourth and final serving is meant to repeat the style you liked best.
Four servings of rice with eel, that’s a lot of food. Good thing it’s delicious!
The restaurant is very close to the Temma-cho station on the Meijo Line, the purple line of Nagoya’s subway system. Some advice: put your name on the list at the restaurant, ask how long the wait will be and take advantage of the spare time to visit nearby Atsuta Jinja, the largest shrine in Nagoya.