I grew up in Nagoya region of Japan, where it is known to have distinct Japanese food culture. Japanese dishes that have roots and/or are loved in Nagoya is called “Nagoya Meshi” and well-known among Japanese.
One of the most famous Nagoya Meshi is hitsumabushi. There are many famous hitsumabushi restaurants, but I love Atsuta Houraiken the most. Hitsumabushi at Atsuta Houraiken is a must-have dish for me when I go back to my home town.
What is Hitsumabushi?
Hitsumabushi is a grilled eel fillet served on top of rice. There is a similar Japanese dish called unadon and unaju, which are also a grilled eel fillet served on top of rice, but there are several differences.
As for hitsumabushi, grilled eel fillet is thinly sliced (instead of big pieces like unadon) so that eel can be mixed well with rice. In addition, hitsumabushi is served with seasonings (such as wasabi, salad onions, seaweed etc.), dashi soup stock, and small empty bowl.
There are 4 steps of eating hitsumabushi:
- As it is: Put 1/4 of hitsumabushi (grilled eel and rice) in small bowl, and enjoy as it is, without any seasoning or dashi soup stock.
- With seasonings: Put another 1/4 of hitsumabushi in small bowl, and put seasonings (wasabi, salad onions, seaweed etc.) this time. Be sure not to use all seasonings up because you will use it later.
- With seasonings and dashi soup stock: This time, enjoy another 1/4 of hitsumabushi with both seasonings and dashi soup stock.
- Last 1/4 is yours: Last 1/4 is up to you. You can eat with your favorite way!
Explanation of how to enjoy hitsumabushi at Atsuta Houraiken
Why Atsuta Houraiken?
Fresh, Finest Eel
Freshness is important for eel dishes. You can feel freshness especially when you eat kimo (liver) of eel often put in a soup served as a side of hitsumabushi. I love kimo at Atsuta Houraiken so much that I usually order kimoyaki (grilled eel livers), too. It is little tiny bit bitter when fresh, but it will become more bitter as it looses freshness.
Moreover, eel fillet at Atsuta Houraiken is thick and tender, which tell that eel has fine quality.
Unagi Kimoyaki (Grilled Eel Liver in sauce)
Perfectly Charcoal Grilled with Binchotan
Charcoal used at Atsuta Houraiken is binchotan, which is known to be the finest charcoal in Japan. Grilling skill is also important, and it is perfect; surface is crispy, but fillet is still tender and juicy.
Delicious Secret Sauce
Sauce plays important role in hitsumabushi, so hitsumabushi restaurants keep its recipe secret. Atsuta Houraiken’s secret sauce recipe has been passed on for more than 140 years and the taste of sauce has long been loved.
Visit Atsuta Shrine While You Wait
Since Atsuta Houraiken is a very well-known restaurant, there are usually long queues. Expect long waiting time…it could be hours! But, if you are visiting Honten or Jingu branch, you do not need wait in line; you can go somewhere else once you visit the restaurant and put your name in the waiting list.
I recommend to visit Atsuta Shrine which is just few minutes away. Atsuta Shrine is a big shinto shrine in Nagoya; it is a very good place to take a walk and feel the traditional Japanese culture. (For more information about Atsuta Shrine, check wikipedia page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atsuta_Shrine)
About Atsuta Houraiken
There are 3 restaurants and 1 takeaway shop (as of 23 Jan 2019). For details and menus, please visit Atsuta Houraiken website: http://www.houraiken.com/english/