Jo-unaju (grilled eel on rice)
Whilst a lot of people might take a direct Narita Express service between Narita airport/central Tokyo, it's worth alighting at Narita station itself to sample one of the local specialities at Kawatoyo (川豊).
Nestled halfway between Narita station and Shinshoji temple along the traditional Narita-san Omotesando street, this little gem will quickly grab your attention on approach. With eel roasting on the grills on one side and staff fervently preparing fresh skewers on other other, if the sweet Kabayaki/eel aroma wafting up the street doesn't grab you, the sheer spectacle of the chefs plying their trade surely will.
It doesn't take much to figure out there is a humble restaurant behind this glitzy shopfront and you'd be wise to venture inside. There is usually a regular flow of Japanese customers coming and going which tells you Kawatoyo is just as much about substance as it is about style.
Kabayaki eel, or unagi, here is an amazing experience: not just a healthy, nutritious meal known for its stamina-boosting properties, the crisp, sweet soy sauce-flavoured outside together with the soft and tender broiled eel on the inside combine to produce a rich, one-of-a-kind flavour. Served on rice in a beautifully lacquered jūbako box, you might feel like ordering even more.
The menu provides various amounts of eel with/without rice: tokujyou-unaju (¥4,100) is the top-end best quality eel on rice, with smaller (jo-unaju / ¥3,500) and basic (unaju / ¥2,500) versions also available. Kimosui (¥100), a traditional soup accompaniment containing liver eel, can also be ordered. You can also just order the eel itself (kabayaki / ¥2,300–¥2,900) if you are not here for a full meal, but the rice (donburi-style) really does enhance and balance the kabayaki flavour.
One thing to consider is you'll need to pay at the start, having just picked up the menu and trying to quickly decide what to order. But the staff are extremely friendly, with some having basic English ability. Closed Mondays.
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