Sake Gumi
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Before leaving for my big trip to Japan, I knew that the one and only thing I really wanted to eat was unagi. Eel! It is quite a delicacy in Japan, and is pricey as hell. Often they are run by families that have been serving eel for generations.

Since childhood, my grandfather has been taking us to his neighborhood unagi-ya (shop), Outone. It is near the Katsutadai station in Chiba prefecture, and we would go every time we visited him and my aunt. The Akaboris adore this place, and it is where most family functions are held.

So when my aunt asked me what I wanted to eat when I visited her, I of course said UNAGI! It was closed the last time I was in Japan three years ago, and I have been craving a good kabayaki for years. She made a reservation at Outone, picked me up at the train station, and we walked straight to the restaurant. It is funny--no matter how many years go by, eating rituals never really change much, do they?

I am unsure of how long exactly Outone has been in Katsutadai, but by the looks of the architecture, I would say decades, at least. Most likely the owners live upstairs.

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If you look closely, the うof ü-nagi has a distinct typography. This is pretty status quo for all unagi shops throughout Japan, as it symbolizes the slithery eel. Pretty clever.

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The never-changing menu is in a display case under the sign.

We were the first customers at the restaurant, at 11:30am. My aunt immediately asked how many pieces of unagi I wanted. I opted for two and a half. Even though we were the only people in the restaurant at that point, it still took 20 minutes. Perfection takes time.

I snooped around while waiting for lunch. Right by the front door, the chefs work openly, preparing the fresh, live unagi and grilling right there. (Watch Kuni prepare anago, here).

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Forget that pre-packaged, frozen stuff from Thailand we get here in the states. This is the real deal!

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Lunchtime.

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Hooray!

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Two and a half pieces of glistening, just-murdered unagi, grilled and sauced, over a hot bed of rice. I want to pet them.

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The unagi is buttery, fluffy and savory.

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Grill marks.

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Last bite. Sadface.

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The meal comes with  gorgeous suimono, which is a clear soup with dashi taken from unagi guts. It's lying right above the uzura (quail egg) and shiitake. Mitsuba is a must (sort of a Japanese parsley).

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The end.

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I knew I shoulda gone for the three pieces of unagi.

Outone inscribed unagi boxes.

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I can't wait to see my aunt again...

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My dad's sister. Don't I look exactly like her?

...and visit Outone in Katsutadai.

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That, and I'll also need to visit Nagoya for some hitsumabushi!
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3 comments

  • Totally jealous now. Somehow I’m not surprised you two were the first customers.

    Johnny on

  • You totes look like your aunt! Strong genes!

    I used to love unagi. But when I lived for one year in Tokyo, I stayed in an apartment on the 5th floor – above an unagi-restaurant… Nuff said. I can’t eat unagi ever again…

    Anders on

  • I love unagi! My grandparents also used to take us to a family-run unagi shop in Nagoyo for family celebrations. Brings back memories.

    sakura on

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