By Bryan Baier
Nara city was a former capital of Japan and is now currently the capital of the Nara Prefecture. The city is most famous for the sacred creatures that roam the city - the "shika," or deer. The sites of Todai-ji and Kasuga Taisha Shrine are also located in Nara, making the city a must-visit on every Kansai traveler's itinerary list.
Even though Nara is commonly populated with large groups of tourists and travelers, it may still be difficult to find a restaurant with the balance of decent prices and delicious food. Many places serve delectable dishes for acceptable prices, though some prices are a bit over the typical traveler's budget. If you're looking to eat something a little more adventurous, and you're looking to treat yourself to a meal that is a little less ¥2000, I would suggest trying some "Kudzu" dishes - otherwise known as delicacies and dishes made with arrowroot. During the summer season at Kurokawa Honke (黒川本家), many dishes with arrowroot incorporated, like the cold pasta made with arrowroot starch, are served. The restaurant is a mid-range, stylish, and chic location that offers a peaceful and welcoming dining atmosphere and experience.
During my visit, I was feeling a little inclined to try something that I wouldn't usually order at a restaurant. I visited on "Doyo-no-Ushi-no-Hi," the special day in Japan that refers to the eighteen days before a change in season. The name of the day literally translates into "Day of the Ox." In Japan, people eat unagi (eel) on this day because of historical traditions from the Edo period in Japan. Coincidentally and obliviously, I ordered the arrowroot summertime speciality at Kurokawa Honke, which turned out to be eel rice with arrowroot sauce!
Now I am not usually a fan of eel because I personally find the taste to be richer than what my tastebuds enjoy, but I must admit that I was quite blown away by the eel rice that I was served here. The dish came with two pieces of eel that were perfectly sized, and were not overpowering in their richness and taste. The sweet, intricate taste of the eel sauce was a surprising delight for me, and I found myself taking bites that were increasingly bigger by the minute. It was quite strange to me that I found myself really enjoying the eel rice, and I have to say that this dining experience has allowed me to discover that perhaps my preconceived opinions on eel were not as definitive as I thought they were.
As it was an almost unbearably hot day in Nara the day I visited, I wanted to sit back and relax in a cool, air-conditioned restaurant, while leisurely enjoying my exquisite lunch - which I was happily able to do. As a college student on a budget, this meal set of ¥1780 (tax included) was a slight splurge, but I was thoroughly satisfied with the portions of my meal. I ordered the set, so I was offered a drink and served a dessert after my meal. I ordered grapefruit juice, and my "unadon" or eel rice, came with a bowl of miso soup and some pickled vegetables. The dessert that came with my lunch set was a delicious, soft, melt-in-your-mouth matcha green tea warabi mochi.
To summarize, I was very much impressed by the quality of food at Korokawa Honke, and as someone who did not previously like eel very much, I can say that I would be willing to try unadon again somewhere else, because of the high quality and delicious meal I was served during my trip to Nara.
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