Amazing BBQ Eel Restaurant in Kyoto – Hirokawa Unagiya

2017 Apr 4

  • Visited: Tuesday 10:30 AM
  • Wait: 2 hours 5 minutes
  • Ordered: A course
  • Price: JPY 3900 (~ USD 35)
  • Tip: Go early. EARLY.
  • Link: Tripadvisor, Official website

 

Getting There

I took a train from Kyoto station to Saga-Arashiyama station and it was about 10 minute ride. I was initially going to visit the bamboo grove first, but I was told that the wait can be pretty long so I decided to just check it out an hour before opening. I was really glad I did, because there were already 30 people lined up in front of the restaurant.

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Luckily I was in the shade and I could lean against the fence, but most people who came after me had to wait in the sun. I joined the line at 10:25 AM and by 10:45 AM, there were 30 people behind me. At 11:05 AM, there were more than 60 people “visible” behind me because the line stretched across the garden and turned around past the door. After some time I think the staff actually asked people close to the back of the line to leave as they were full for the day.

There was even a short line inside, so getting past the door didn’t mean you would get to your table soon. I was really glad I had my kindle with me that day.

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Food

I finally got seated at 12:30 PM, so after 2 hours and 5 minutes of wait. Interestingly, I was seated at a table for 4. It looked like they cared about the order people lined up seriously. It was beside the window so the view was nice. The restaurant felt very relaxed and spacious, in contrast to the outside.

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I ordered the A-course, which consists of medium-sized unagi donburi (BBQ eel over rice) and some side dishes.

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The green tea was pretty good.

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The food was served after about 15 minutes, and I was excited and anxious to try the food that made me wait for more than 2 hours.

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Going counter-clockwise starting from bottom right:

  • Clear soup – A little fishy, but not bad.
  • Tsukemono (Pickled vegetables)
  • Koi no arai (Half broiled fresh carp) – Wow. It was fresh and flavourful. The texture of the fish was crispy and chewy. The miso sauce was also amazing and went really well with the carp. I didn’t have much expectation but I was pleasantly surprised.
  • Uzaka (Grilled eel and cucumber) – Soft and refreshing.
  • Una jyu (BBQ eel over rice) – It melted. For real. It was very umami and not too sweet. The sauce was not overwhelming either, which was typical of most of the unagi I had had before. It was so amazing it slapped Kobe steak from Steak Land twice in the face. It was so good I almost forgot that I had to wait for 2 hours.

 

The portion wasn’t that big so I ended up getting mochi for dessert outside the restaurant, and it was amazing. JPY 250 ~ USD 2

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Thoughts

Fortunately I didn’t have much planned for the day so I didn’t have much problem waiting for 2 hours for a table. For me it was worth every minute and penny despite the meal being the most expensive one of the trip. I am personally a huge fan of unagi so people who are not fond of it may not find it worth the time and money. I would love to visit again, and probably will line up an hour and a half before opening with some reading material or entertainment.

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