The restaurant that invented the “hitsumabushi” eel dish
What’s a hitsumabushi?
Have you ever had unaju? That’s the dish with grilled eel on rice, and you’ll find it everywhere in Japan. IMO, tastes like teriyaki chicken but better. The hitsumabushi (ひつまぶし) is a rich eel bowl, with a similar sweet-and-hearty taste, with three special ways to enjoy. Houraiken Honten near Atsuta Shrine is the place that started this local dish. Naturally, the best place to try it!
The place has been around since 1873, and they’ve been making this stuff for over 140 years. That’s some history! The place is packed, but when I went, there was a guy outside handing out numbers so that they can call your number when there’s a seat ready. We didn’t wait too long. Pretty efficient system!
Okay, don’t get too freaked out by the prices — eel is an expensive Japanese delicacy. One bowl of histumabushi is 3,900 yen (around $39 USD). This is a fancy affair. They have other eel dishes as well (lowest in the 800 yen range), but for first-timers, I’d recommend the main dish.
How to eat a hitsumabushi
Sitting at your table will be a set of instructions to eat it.
- Eat it plain. Nomnom.
- Put some yakumi (seasoning: leek, wasabi, seaweed) on it, and try it together.
- When you’re almost done, add the tea so that it mixes with the eel and yakumi for a delicious eel congee!
Literally, the name of the dish is about “mabushi” (sprinking) in a “hitsu” (wooden container). So you’re sprinkling some interesting seasoning on what is already good quality eel.
Now when you refer friends to Nagoya, you’ll know a bit more about the local delicacies!
It’s a good idea to pair this restaurant with a trip to Atsuta Shrine, a massive Shinto shrine/park towards the southern end of Nagoya.