One fine Golden Week lunchtime… I visited “Atsuta Houraiken”, a long-established restaurant in Nagoya established in 1873, to eat Hitsumabushi, which I consider to be one of the best dishes in Nagoya….
Atsuta Houraiken Head Shop｜The birthplace of Hitsujimabushi has been a famous restaurant in Nagoya for over 140 years
When I arrived at the main branch of Houraiken Atsuta right at the opening time, to my surprise, the waiting time was already 4 hours at this point…how is this possible, no matter how much it is lunchtime on a holiday? It is extremely popular. As one would expect from a restaurant listed in the Michelin Guide (I later learned that they start accepting reservations at 10:30, before the restaurant opens).
The waiter was accepting reservations at the entrance, so after getting a numbered ticket, I decided to kill some time nearby and come back at 3:30 PM. And…
I killed some time in the vicinity and arrived a little earlier than my appointment time, around 3:10. We wait outside for a little while and enter the restaurant on the signal of the voice that was called just in time. By the way, here is what the crowd looked like at this point…
The exterior of the restaurant is a typical old-fashioned house. However, the restaurant must have been enlarged as the number of customers increased due to the success of Hitsumabushi…it looks a bit like a labyrinth inside. The waiter guides us to a relatively new western-style seating area at the far end of the restaurant. Our order was, of course, Hitsumabushi. Please note that the eel liver soup is an additional order.
Sample menu and prices at Atsuta Houraiken Head Shop (prices include tax)
- Hitsumabushi 3,900 yen
- Ippan Hitsumabushi 5500 yen (large portion of rice and eel)
- Large serving of rice +200 yen
- Change to liver soup +250 yen
- Eel bone cracker 600 yen
- Uzuki eel 990 yen
- Uzaku: 990 yen
- Unagi donburi (eel bowl): Normal 2650 yen, Top 3280 yen, Extra-top 4350 yen
- Umaki set meal (umaki and small hitsumabushi): 3,150 yen
- Tempura set meal: 2,900 yen
A traditional style that has continued since the Meiji Era…the origin of Nagoya’s famous Hitsumabushi is here!
First of all, please take a look at the Hitsumabushi from Atsuta Houraiken Head Shop that was brought before me…
From the bottom right of the tray, eels cover the surface of the rice in a wooden bowl in a beached manner… It is hard to tell from the image, but this bowl has the volume of four cups of tea on the left. Above that, in a red tokkuri is the dried bonito broth for chazuke. There are three kinds of condiments: chopped green onion, wasabi, and nori. The soup in the center was changed to eel liver soup.
You probably don’t pay much attention to this, but “Hitsu-mabushi” differs from so-called “Unaju” and “Unadon” in some details. First is the wooden bowl. This was conceived to prevent the bowl from breaking during delivery. The bowl was invented in the Meiji Era (1868-1912), and is still being used with great care nearly 150 years later.
The finely shredded eel is one of the unique features of hitsu-mabushi. While the big slice of eel that is big enough to gobble down is the main attraction of unaju, don’t you feel a sense of loneliness and regret slowly overwhelm you when you see the rice that remains afterward?
In the case of Hitsumabushi, the eel is cut into small pieces, so you have the advantage of being able to eat a good balance of rice and eel. The style of stirring the rice to make it like mixed rice, or enjoying it with chazuke (rice with tea)… was made possible by the wisdom of people in the past, which lasted for more than 100 years.
The recommended way to eat Hitsumabushi is to first enjoy the three different flavors…
The recommended way to eat Hitsumabushi, which was established over a long period of time… First, divide the rice in the hitsuitsu into 4 equal portions with a rice scoop and transfer the first portion to a bowl of rice…
First, enjoy the pure taste of the eel as it is. The fluffy grilled meat has a charred surface, and the aroma spreads from the mouth to the nose. On the other hand, the sauce was lighter in flavor than I had imagined and seemed to hide its presence while the fragrance of the charred meat came to the fore.
Then came the second bowl. We will have rice and eel with a sprinkling of yakumi (condiments) on top…
In addition to the savory flavor of the eel, the chopped nori adds a crispy texture. And a little surprisingly, the addition of yakumi (condiments) enhances the elegant aroma and sweetness of the sauce.
And the third cup. I served it with a dash of bonito broth to make a chazuke (rice with green tea)…
Scatter the yakumi (condiments) in the same manner as before and pour the dashi broth into the bowl. The sauce melts into the dashi broth and becomes a superb soup, and the rice loosens piece by piece and flows smoothly from the mouth to the throat like a clear stream.
What about the fourth and final bowl? I mean…you eat another bowl in the way you liked best from the three types so far. I see, so that’s how it is. It’s a very chic way to eat…I thought. And finally, my choice…
This is the second version of the dish with condiments. Both as is and with ochazuke were delicious, but I wanted to taste again the taste of the secret sauce that has been passed down from generation to generation for over 100 years since the establishment of the restaurant.
As I began to eat the last bowl, I could confirm that the sensation I had just experienced was no accident. The gentle sweetness of the secret sauce spread softly in my mouth. The power of tradition, I must say. I’m glad I saved more rice for the last bowl of rice.
Incidentally, this is what the wooden hitsu looks like after a complete meal. The entire inner surface is glistening with eel fat. The eels must have been very fatty and top quality.
There is a wide variety of eel dishes other than Hitsumabushi… To get to the Atsuta Horaiken Head Shop, get off at Denmacho Station on the Nagoya Municipal Subway Meijo Line, the nearest station, and walk 7 minutes.
Now, here are the details of the store. Restaurant data is here…
Atsuta Houraiken Head Shop.
Address: 503 Kobe-cho, Atsuta-ku, Nagoya City, Aichi Prefecture
Phone number: 052-671-8686 (Reservations can be made by phone only for eel dinner)
Business hours: Lunch 11:30-14:00 LO, Dinner 16:30-20:30 LO
Closed: Wednesdays, 2nd and 4th Thursdays (open on national holidays)
Credit card accepted