125-year-old unagi restaurant opens in Singapore – here’s what you can get at Miyagawa Honten’s first-ever overseas outlet

A small-sized serving of Hitsumabushi at Unagiya Ichinoji in Singapore.
Business Insider/Jessica Lin

Unagi specialist restaurants are common in Japan, but become rare treasures once you leave the country’s shores.

In Singapore, there are only a few such restaurants, including Chikuyotei, Uya and Man Man, which is famous for its snaking queues.

Given the widespread popularity of unagi in Singapore in recent years, it isn’t surprising that one of Tokyo’s most popular unagi specialist restaurants has decided to bring its take on the traditional Edo-period dish to the sunny island.

Miyagawa Honten, which opened its first outlet in Tokyo’s Tsukiji 125 years ago, is arguably one of the city’s most well-known unadon shops today with 20 outlets in Japan.

Starting Thursday (April 12), Singapore fans of the Japanese fresh-water eel will be able to get a taste of the store’s famous charcoal-grilled unagi when it opens its first-ever overseas outlet at Robertson Quay.

A Bib Gourmand recipient in the Michelin Guide Tokyo 2018, you can expect the hype around Unagiya Ichinoji (the name given to Miyagawa Honten’s Singapore outlet) to last for quite a while.

Apart from its famous Hitsumabushi rice bowl, the restaurant’s owners have also decided to introduce other unagi preparation styles not found in its Japan stores to the Singapore crowd.

Business Insider paid a visit to the restaurant before its official opening to see what Singapore’s first unagi specialty shop from Japan will be bringing to the table.

Here’s what we found:


Unagi Ichinoji can be quite difficult to locate. It sits along the inner row of shops at Riverside View in Robertson Quay, near Village Residence. 

Business Insider/Jessica Lin

The restaurant can sit around 34 people at a time, and is designed to resemble a traditional Japanese shop building with a Japanese-style tiled roof.

Business Insider/Jessica Lin

For better view of the grilling process, choose a seat at the counter and witness your meal being cooked right before your eyes.

Business Insider/Jessica Lin

And if you want to meet the eels that will soon become your dinner, you can do so at the eel tank located at the front of the shop.

Business Insider/Jessica Lin

The eels are caught alive in front of customers by a staff member, who then places the slithery creatures on a tray of ice. 

Business Insider/Jessica Lin

Try not to get too close though, eels tend to squirm a lot (unless you want bits of ice hitting on your face).

Business Insider/Jessica Lin

The menu at Unagi Ichinoji is quite extensive. Apart from unadon, the restaurant also serves interesting sides such as crackers made from unagi bones, unagi salad, unagi omelette, unagi liver soup and unagi simmered liver.

Drinks offered include Sapporo Beer, shochu, highball, umeshu, sake and Japanese soft drinks.

Business Insider/Jessica Lin

Once an order is received, the chefs get cooking.

When we visited, the restaurant’s head chef showed off his 25 years’ of experience by adeptly splitting the live eels in half.

Business Insider/Jessica Lin

He later skewers the pieces of eel and grills them on a hot bed of charcoal. We’re told that steady temperature control of the grill is one of the skills Miyagawa Honten’s unagi masters are known for.

Business Insider/Jessica Lin

After repeatedly dipping the eel and grilling it in a special “tare” (sweet sauce) made in-house, they are ready to be plated.

According to Miyagawa Honten’s CEO, Yoshida Yoshisada, the recipe for the restaurant’s unique “tare” has been passed down from generation to generation. Mr Yoshisada, who was in town to oversee the restaurant’s opening, is the great-grandson of Miyagawa Honten’s founder. 

Business Insider/Jessica Lin

While Miyagawa Honten serves its unagi as whole pieces in Japan, Mr Yoshisada said the pieces are cut up neatly for consumers in Singapore.

This is so customers can easily divide their rice into portions, so they can try out the three different recommended ways of savouring the dish.

The Hitsumabushi style is the most common serving style found at unadon shops. At Unagiya Ichinoji, there are four sizes available – small, medium, large and extra large. The large portion (S$32.80, pictured below) is a great option for unagi lovers who just can’t get enough. 

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The XL portion (S$77.80) is enough to feed three people.

Business Insider/Jessica Lin

There are signs in the restaurant that show you the three different ways you can enjoy the dish.

1) Eat it as it is

2) Mix it with onions, wasabi and seaweed

3) Pour dashi (made from mackerel, anchovies and Hokkaido seaweed) into the bowl. This was our favourite out of the three.

The eel prepared here is not as heavily coated in sauce as you’d see in other restaurants. But you can choose to add as much “tare” and seasoning as you want.

We recommend the spicy sauce and sansho pepper for that extra kick in your unadon. But remember to go easy on the sauce. A little bit of this homemade “tare” goes a very long way.

Business Insider/Jessica Lin

If you’re not sure what to order, the Kyushu-style Seiro Mushi (S$19.80, or S$24.80 with chawanmushi) is a Singapore-exclusive item. 

Business Insider/Jessica Lin

The unadon served is steamed in a bamboo box, giving it a pleasant and unique aroma.

Business Insider/Jessica Lin

The Hokkaido rice served in this dish has been mixed with the store’s sweet “tare”, giving it a heavenly brown tinge. 

Business Insider/Jessica Lin

Another style of unadon served here is the Osaka Mamushi (S$18.80, or S$23.80 with chawanmushi).

Business Insider/Jessica Lin

It comes not only with kinshi eggs (shredded egg crepe), but also an onsen egg, mentaiko and grated Japanese yam.

Mix them all together and you’ll get a gooey bowl of yummy unagi goodness. But if sticky semi-wet rice is not for you, you should give this dish a miss.

Business Insider/Jessica Lin

The chawanmushi served also comes with a tiny piece of unagi. While the steamed egg dish is fluffy and light, you can probably skip the add-on considering how many egg-based ingredients are already in this set!

Business Insider/Jessica Lin

Unagiya Ichinoji

#01-05 Riverside View, Robertson Quay, Singapore 238251

Open daily from 11.30am to 3pm; 5.30pm to 10pm