A new Japanese Unagi restaurant has opened up shop at Wheelock Place if you can’t be bothered to queue at Man Man Unagi. UYA 四代目菊川 Japanese Unagi Restaurant is the newest addition to join the likes of the two other unagi speciality restaurants in Singapore, focusing on serving up Kansai-style grilled unagi.
When we arrived, there was already a long line of customers waiting outside the restaurant just before they started their lunch service. I was impressed by how sharp the exterior of the restaurant looked, with a ‘noren‘ curtain decorated simply with a drawing of an eel and the restaurant’s name, gracing the front entrance.
The restaurant’s interior was designed simply, with wooden furnishing and wood panels to separate the different dining areas. The floor tiles were especially unique, with sleek black ceramic tiles contrasting with grey speckled ones.
Right in the centre of the restaurant was a single maple tree, to add a pop of colour in the midst of the earthy tones of the dining area. Stepping into UYA reminded me of some of the modern Japanese restaurants that I visited when I was in Kyoto, and it really brought back a sense of nostalgia for the great memories I had during my trip.
We started off our meal with the Rare Wagyu Rice Bowl ($27), which came topped with sous vide egg, fried garlic flakes, chives and a couple of sprigs of alfalfa sprouts.
It was my first time having Kagoshima Wagyu, and I was delightfully surprised at how tender it was. The meat had a nice marbling and the fried garlic flakes really offset the richness of the fatty beef. When mixed together with the soft egg and the sweet soy sauce that was drizzled over the dish, it took this dish to the next level in terms of depth and texture.
Definitely one of the best wagyu bowls that I’ve tasted, and the portion is just perfect for one pax.
UYA imports the eels live from Japan, supplied by 4th generation eel mongers from the Kikugawa family. They are stored in a chilled holding room with a constant supply of filtered cold water to ensure that they are in the best living conditions before being prepared, grilled and served on the very same day.
They are grilled over a Japanese binchotan, which adds to the smoky fragrance and char on their skin, and of course, ensuring that the eel is thoroughly cooked.
With its origins from Aichi prefecture in Nagoya, the Hitsumabushi ($35, medium) came in a beautiful wooden lacquered box, with a generous portion of eel sitting on a bed of Niigata rice. Along with it came various condiments such as a flask of dashi stock, wasabi, nori flakes and Sancho pepper.
Separating the dish into quarters, you can eat this dish in four ways: with a sprinkle of zesty Sancho pepper, mixed up with wasabi, nori flakes and chives, or as ochazuke–pouring dashi stock over the eel and rice. The final fourth way is up to you to enjoy the final bites of the unagi just the way you like it, with any of the methods above.
My favourite way was having the unagi and rice as ochazuke, with the clear dashi stock bringing out the smoky flavours of the grilled eel. The broth evens out the dense flavour of the eel, giving it a more refined taste.
This is a great place to dine at especially if you are looking to try affordable Kansai-style grilled unagi. Its convenient location in the air-conditioned second level of Wheelock Place will appeal to you if you aren’t too fond of queueing up in the hot sun for Man Man Japanese Unagi Restaurant, which serves similar fare.
UYA definitely set the bar high for my first foray of trying Japanese grilled eel, I can definitely foresee myself coming back here with my friends and family sometime in the near future.
Expected Damage: $28 – $46 per pax