One of the Best BBQ Unagi Restaurants in Kyoto
Perhaps Sumide can be ranked in 3 best BBQ “Unagi” (broiled fresh water Eel) restaurants in Kyoto. Unagi is more popular in Nagoya area, but still there are superb Unagi specialized restaurants outside of Nagoya.
Why is Unagi of Sumide so good ?
Several reasons… Reason 1 is Sumide cleans up live Unagi and cooks it to order, unlike the other Unagi restaurants where Unagi’s are usually cleaned ahead of time. Reason 2 is Sumide’s Unagi’s are all farmed domestically in Japan. Some people say wild Unagi is better, but I do not think so, because Unagi eats anything, meaning some wild Unagi’s are eating something that we do not want to know – bugs, snails, to name a few. Also, since wild Unagi habitats are getting smaller and smaller, the population of wild Unagi’s is scarce, and subsequently it is difficult to get Unagi’s in uniform size and quality. That is why I prefer carefully farmed Unagi’s over expensive wild ones. Reason 3 is Sumide’s BBQ sauce – not too thick, not too sweet. It is the perfect binder for the BBQed Unagi and the steamed rice.
Reason 4 is how the Unagi is BBQed at Sumide – crispy outside and moist inside, thanks to “Binchotan” charcoal made from Ubane Oak, which generates intense far infrared heating.
This restaurant is located a bit far away from central Kyoto. But it is usually packed with local regulars. If you want to try this restaurant, you may want to call them ahead of time to reserve your table. It is a really small restaurant having just handful tables and a small counter-seating.
Order “Jo Unaju” which won’t disappoint you
What I usually eat at this restaurant is “Jo Unaju” (= Delux Unagi with steamed rice in a rectangular lacquered box). The price is Yen 2,550 which includes a bowl of clear soup with blanched Unagi liver, a couple of small plates (pickles, braised seasonal vegetables, etc.) and consumption tax. They also offer Unagi with rice in a ceramic bowl (same volume, same preparation and same price). For some people, eating from a round ceramic bowl is easier than from a rectangular shaped lacquered box.
The best way to get there is to take “Tozaisen” subway from Karasuma Oike St. or Kyoto Shiyakusho-Mae St. and get off at Ono St. Just a few minutes walk to the restaurant from Ono St. Do not take a taxi cab, because the streets in between central Kyoto area and the restaurant can be really jammed especially in rush hours.
Tables of Sumide - Low Tables without holes underneath. There is one Table which has a hole in the Tatami Floor, good to stretch legs.