A Flavor-Rich Eel Hot Pot by a Restaurant Founded 400 Years Ago
A three minute walk from the Keihan Shichijo station, on the opposite side of the Sanjugen-do temple there is a restaurant specializing in eel hot pot. The long established restaurant, Warajiya, was founded in 1624, over 390 years ago!
The name of the restaurant comes from an anecdote about Toyotomi Hideyoshi, shogun of Japan during the Sengoku period. It is said that when visiting Kyoto Toyotomi Hideyoshi took a break at this restaurant, taking off his “waraji”-sandals. So that is how the name of the restaurant, Warajiya, was born!
You can feel the almost 400 year history of the restaurant also from the atmosphere of the restaurant building. Just gazing at the inner garden is a Kyoto experience in itself.
Warajiya only has one course, the “uzousui” course. The unagi(eel) gives the u to the “ufuzousui”, “unabe”, and the “uzousui”. The unabe hot pot and uzousui porridge of rice and vegetables are especially famous. The unabe hot pot and uzousui porridge are a rare treat that you can only taste at Warajiya. The hot pot and porridge both contain an abundant amount of fragrant grilled unagi. The dishes are simple, the taste coming from a mellow tsuyu-sauce flavored with dashi-soup stock, and the dishes contain plenty of unagi with few other ingredients. All this brings out the taste of the unagi in the dishes. In this restaurant you can feel the long history of the place in the air, you are sure to have a Japanese cuisine experience you are going to remember fondly.
After the appetizer the unabe is carried to the table on a big wooden tray that is sure to leave an impression. The restaurant staff will pour the first bowlful for you. After grilling the bones are removed from the eel, so the cylindrically shaped unagi can be eaten as it is. The unagi is simmered until it gets soft, so the steaming hot unagi is a soft delicacy like no other. The ingredients of the hot pot are unagi, kujo green onion, seitan, and gelatin noodles, so there is nothing complicated about the hot pot. Adding a little bit of Japanese pepper to the hot pot brings out the fragrance and the flavors even more.
After the unabe comes this dish, uzousui. Besides from unagi this egg porridge contains shiitake mushrooms, carrot, green onion, burdock root, and mochi rice cakes. Because of the egg the taste is really smooth and it all comes together to form a gentle tasting porridge. The porridge is really tasty and the rice and the mochi rice cakes make the porridge fulfilling.
All Kinds of Sake
In winter the combination of a hot pot and some sake is unbeatable. Unabe and uzousui both use a dashi-soup stock made from konbu-seaweed and katsuo-dried bonito with a delicate taste that still has a lot of depth. Choosing a sake that won’t interfere with this delicate taste probably means choosing something with a mellow taste. The sake served at Warajiya is mild and mellow, going well with unabe and uzousui. Unagi and sake –the best combination for winter in Japan. Heartily recommended.