If there’s one thing I learned from last month’s meal at Ryo, it’s that eel. is. good. I needed more and decided to check out Hashimoto. Located in a very quiet neighborhood somewhere between Nagatacho and Ikebukuro, Hashimoto was established in 1835 and is run by a sixth-generation owner and chef.
The scent of grilled unagi wafts outside and upon sliding the front door open, it feels like you are entering a traditional Japanese home somewhere far away from Tokyo’s bright lights. It’s a very casual restaurant and only offers about 10 items on an a la carte menu. Unlike most Michelin-starred restaurants, there is no course menu, no service charge, a concise, if not limited, selection of libations, and zero sense of pretentiousness or stuffiness. Rather, the service is attentive and the eel is given its proper space to shine. From the fact that almost every item contains eel in some form, to the “Unagi Washoku” posters on the walls, there is no doubt that this is a dining destination for the eel purist (do those exist?).
And it’s one of Japan’s cheapest Michelin restaurants, too. The most expensive item, the unagi-ju jou, is only 3300 yen and most drinks are 700 or 800 yen. With sake and all the food below, our bill came out to under 13,000 yen. Not bad at all for expertly prepared eel with a nearly 200 year-old history.
Let’s eat Hashimoto!
Otoshi appetizer of a pickled leaf.
Eel bone senbei crackers. A little grotesque in prsentation? Maybe. Crispy, delicious, and perfect with sake? Absolutely.
Unagi hire (Eel fins)
Mukou-bone (eel rib meats on the bone)
Umaki – eel inside a fluffy, juicy omelette.
Eel liver soup.
Pickled vegetables to accompany the una-ju.
Una-Ju Jou – the top level of eel served over rice. Fatty, juicy, and so, so good.
I’ve never been a big fan of unagi (eel) despite it’s popularity among Japanese and foreigners alike. It’s not that I don’t like it, it’s just something I’ve never gone out of my way to eat. Still, my wife always credited my lack of unagi enthusiasm to the fact that I’ve never had really good eel. With that in mind, I searched for some Michelin-starred eel and was happy to find Ryo, a restaurant new to the 2017 guide. It’s unique in that it only serves one course and each dish comes paired with sake. Thus, it seemed like a good place to start my unagi journey, because even if the food was no good, I could at least get a good buzz.
Luckily, the food was awesome. Let me ride the bandwagon- I am a fan, and would be happy to eat the slithery little water snake any time!
Ryo is in a quiet location, a good 10 minute walk from either Naka-Meguro or Ikejiri-Ohashi stations, and it’s 2nd floor location above a car repair shop makes it very easy to miss. Once you find it, it’s a cozy, 8-seat restaurant with just one table that wraps around an open kitchen. The owner, a 38 year-old well-versed in music, mans the ship doing all the eel preparation, while his father works as a sous chef, and his wife manages the beverages. It’s a fairly hip place with vinyl album covers like Neil Young and Coltrane adorning the walls, while similar music plays in the background.
The course is a great value, as well. Two people can enjoy expertly prepared eel served in the kaiseki style and enough rare and unique sake to feel Ryo’s good vibes for well under 30,000 yen.
Let’s eat Ryo!
Appetizer- clam & daikon stewed with sake kasu
Sashimi course- makajiki (broadbill swordfish) and sayori (halfbeak fish)
Unagi shirayaki (eel grilled with sake)
Tempura course- squid, scallops, mountain vegetables, pickled ginger, and Japanese orange peel (!)
Eel fin, liver, and bones
Sawani soup- leek, gobo (burdock), carrot, chicken breast, and yuzu
Eel bowl- grilled eel over rice with special sauce. Unbelievably tasty.
Dessert sake from Kyoto