It is commonly believed in Japan that making a meal of eel, or unagi, will increase your stamina, and while the queues for unagi restaurants grow longest on a mid-summer "Day of the Ox" (referring to the Chinese zodiac accounting of the calendar), partaking in the delights of Maekawa restaurant in Asakusa is sure to convince you of eel-eating's merits any time of year.
Maekawa's history date backs around 200 years to Japan's Bunsei period (1818－1830), when the establishment began as a fresh fish wholesaler. The name of the restaurant translates to "front of the river", and this is an indication of both the Sumida River-side setting and the freshness of the food. The charming old building is imbued with character befitting its location in shita-machi (old center of Edo, i.e. Tokugawa-era Tokyo), and guests will enjoy the traditional tatami-mat rooms with tokonoma (alcoves) befitting the Japanese esthetic.
Maekawa today is like a bridge between the past and present, with modern reminders of 21st-Century Tokyo visible through the windows in the form Tokyo Skytree and the Asahi building. You can enjoy exceptional old-style Japanese hospitality, in which you feel like an honored guest as kimono-clad servers cater to your culinary needs. Not only is the taste of the food important at Maekawa, but also the presentation, the colors, the textures, and the timing of your meal are all planned and executed to perfection.
As for the food, Maekawa uses Taro Bando eel from the Tone River, as this variety is considered far superior to the typical farmed eel in both flavor and nutrition (particularly Vitamin E and the EPA and DHA essential fatty acids). Specialties of the house include Unaju (うな重), which is grilled eel fillets in a light, sweet sauce served on rice. Though unaju is commonly found in restaurants across the country, it is uncommonly delicious at Maekawa. For a lighter meal, or an accompaniment to your unaju, Uzaku (うざく), a grilled eel salad, will also make your taste buds smile. Other regular dishes plus seasonal specials are available.
In addition to regular restaurant seating, Maekawa offers private rooms for your parties or business meetings. And while the Asakusa restaurant overlooking the Sumida River is the original, Maekawa has two other locations: one near Tokyo Station (Marunouchi side) and another in Tokyo Skytree's Solamachi.
Was this article helpful?
Featured on Japan Travel