Would you ever think that unagi rice bowls could be considered as “fast food”? Having dined at Unagi Tei, Man Man and Uya, I’m inclined to say no. Yet, despite my initial scepticism, I was pleasantly surprised by Unatoto, the latest unagi don joint to land in Singapore.
Touted as Japan’s number 1 unagi brand, Unatoto is well-known for its fast yet affordable unagi dons. This famous chain has over 100 outlets in Japan, Hong Kong, Thailand and Vietnam, and opened its first Singapore store at Guoco Tower on 25 Jan 2023.
Guoco Tower is one of the busiest CBD work hubs I know of. Situated in the heart of Tanjong Pagar, everyone here walks with a purpose, striding quickly to their next meeting.
You’ll find Unatoto at basement 1, right outside the MRT underpass to Cecil Street. Nestled cosily between City Hot Pot and SBCD Korean Tofu House, Unatoto drew a crowd even before it opened on the dot at 11am!
Every piece of unagi is grilled over charcoal, and you can watch the staff in action while waiting in line for a seat. The restaurant can accommodate 56 persons at any one time, so be sure to come early if you’re intending to drop by for lunch.
What I tried at Unatoto
I went straight for Unatoto’s most affordable item— the Unadon (S$9.50).
Though I had opted to top up S$4 for a set and chose Okra and Red Miso Soup as my side dishes, my Unadon left me with mixed first impressions.
Unagi is pretty expensive, so being able to price an unagi don below S$10 is certainly no mean feat (albeit before GST). Yet, factoring out the side dishes, what I received was a bowl of Japanese short grain rice doused in honjozo soy sauce and a single slab of charcoal-grilled unagi.
Would this S$9.50 bowl of unagi be enough for lunch?
A single bite of the unagi got me nodding my head in approval.
This was fantastic unagi— fleshy and meaty, yet tender enough that it melted in my mouth. I loved the signature sweet-savoury glaze, which had a good amount of smokiness from the charcoal, and the gorgeous glistening skin.
More importantly, I couldn’t taste any fishiness at all, and wouldn’t have ever guessed that this came from a “fast food” unagi concept.
The rice itself was authentically Japanese, with its telltale starchy mouthfeel that’s reminiscent of sushi.
All in all, this was a really classic bowl of unagi don— albeit not as loaded as other high-end unagi don restaurants, as I was only given one slab of unagi.
While the relatively affordable price tag was laudable, I was glad to have topped up S$4 for the set, as the crunchy Okra and salty Red Miso Soup was crucial in making my experience at Unatoto an all-rounded one.
Imagine just having a singular bowl of Japanese short grain rice and an average-sized slab of unagi for lunch. That definitely wouldn’t be enough to fill anybody’s belly!
Apart from unagi dons, Unatoto sells tempura rice bowls too. I decided to try its Unagi Tempura Don (S$15), and topped up S$4 to get the Chilled Tofu and Unagi Liver Soup as my side dishes.
I had envisioned a bowl of tempura and a slab of charcoal-grilled unagi, but it took me a couple of minutes of serious digging to realise that Unatoto had turned the unagi into tempura too! The rest of the tempura were made of your classic ingredients, such as prawn, mushroom and egg.
I counted one or two long sticks of tempura unagi, and absolutely loved how the crunchy tempura batter went hand-in-hand with the fatty unagi meat. Not only was the batter light and crisp, the unagi flesh on the inside was soft and buttery, and even came with the iconic honjozo soy sauce glaze for that added savouriness.
My only gripe with Unatoto’s Unagi Tempura Don was that I wished there was more unagi tempura.
After noticing that almost every single table had ordered Unatoto’s Umaki, my dining companion and I decided to follow suit.
Umaki is a Japanese rolled omelette with eel, and is available at Unatoto in two sizes: S$3 for half size and S$5.50 for the full portion.
It arrived steaming hot, and came with a spoon for us to cut it into bite-sized pieces.
The omelette itself was mildly sweet and incredibly juicy, and I loved how it retained a slight fluffiness. In all honesty, it reminded me more of firm scrambled eggs than tamagoyaki, as it lacked that distinct sweetness from the mirin or sugar.
Without its signature honjozo soy sauce glaze, the eel was plainer than expected, and took a back seat in terms of flavour. Yet, I enjoyed its soft and simple tenderness.
Was Unatoto as hyped up as it seemed to be? Frankly, not so much.
I appreciated how it served unagi dons at comparatively low prices, but you’re still getting what you paid for. A S$9.50 bowl of unagi wasn’t enough to keep me full, and I had to top up S$4 to make it a set.
Despite that, was the unagi served at Unatoto delicious? Yes, most definitely so. I loved how fleshy each piece of unagi was. Soft and tender, these slabs of unagi retained a wonderful smokiness from the charcoal, which went perfectly with the savoury honjozo soy sauce glaze.
This was a great way for me to satisfy my unagi cravings at a decent price, but the next time I’m here, I’ll order dishes such as its Unajyu Regular (S$12), Unadon Double (S$14.50) or Unajyu Large (S$20), so that I can double down on the amount of unagi for maximum shiokness.
Expected damage: S$9.50 – S$20 per pax
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Price: $ $
Our Rating: 4 / 5
7 Wallich Street, Guoco Tower, #B1-03, Singapore 078884
7 Wallich Street, Guoco Tower, #B1-03, Singapore 078884