Kyoto, Japan: Hirokawa

Set besides the pristine bamboo forest of Arashiyama, a legendary restaurant of immense popularity resides in this quaint quiet town. People flock from all over the world, and wait for countless hours, just for a chance to savor their signature dish.

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Hirokawa’s specialty is grilled unagi, a freshwater eel. This is not to be confused with anago, which is a saltwater eel. The unagi donburi (grilled eel over rice) is a must have. This sole item is the only reason why this restaurant has a mile long line, all day, everyday.

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Knowing this, we woke up at the break of dawn to trek our way over to Arashiyama from Kyoto city center. Having arrived 2 hours ahead of opening, we were feeling quite cocky that we would be first in line. To our disbelief, a small queue had already formed in front of the entrance. Apparently, there were others who were more eager than us.

By the time the doors opened, the queue behind us had close to 100 people, no exaggeration. Regardless, we were the first batch of customers allowed into the restaurant.

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In addition to the unagi donburi, the menu also offered different parts of the fish, such as liver or eel wrapped in egg. The latter being a clever use of the end pieces.

The star, the main attraction, the piece de resistance, was of course the unagi donburi. The eel, grilled to tender perfection with a light char and smokiness from the skin. The sauce, designed to strike a balance between sweet and savory. The rice, treated and cooked with care.

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We did not regret spending half a day dedicated to this restaurant. It was worth every minute of the journey.

Please note that reordering is not allowed. Once you have completed your order, it is set in stone. If you’re not full, you’ll have to find food elsewhere. This is to ensure that table turnover is done efficiently. So don’t take it personally.

At the time of visit
Cuisine: Unagi donburi
Cost per head: 5,500 Yen (49.20 USD)

64 Teianmaenocho, Shijo Teramachi-dori Higashi-iru, Simogyo-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture
+81 75-871-5226

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