Aug 17, 2017

UNAGI Challenge: Affordable vs. Expensive! Which Do You Prefer?

Hot, sweaty, and dehydrating─── the negative side of summer that makes us crave for siesta. Lacking stamina in a beautiful, sunny day is such a waste, so why not eat UNAGI?

UNAGI Challenge: Affordable vs. Expensive! Which Do You Prefer? photo


Freshwater eel (or unagi) is a popular summer food in Japan, which is said to boost vitality. It is a perfect meal to have after a tiring day, but it can cost quite a bit. Cheaper unagi in supermarkets and budget restos are also available, so no need to worry about putting a hole in your pocket. However, will it be as satisfying as the expensive ones?

The only way to find out is to have a TASTE TEST! I tried out this popular summer food from the supermarket, Tsukiya, and in a traditional Japanese restaurant.



This is the most affordable among the 3. Costing about 399 yen, you get a grilled unagi covered with sweet sauce and packed with some seasoning and soy sauce.

UNAGI Challenge: Affordable vs. Expensive! Which Do You Prefer? photo

I bought this at Seiyu

Despite being cheap, it was tasty. After a few bites, you could feel the fish meat slowly softens in your tongue, making you relish each mouthful.

I do need to point out that you could feel few tiny fish bones that bothered me a little. It also has a hint of charcoal taste, which can be a turn-off for people who don’t like their food bitter.


I’m not a usual patron of Tsukiya, however, I do know that they are selling Unagi for only a limited time. The most budget-friendly is about 780 yen, but not including any side dishes.

UNAGI Challenge: Affordable vs. Expensive! Which Do You Prefer? photo

Eel and beef

The one I ordered was Unagi-Gyu. For 880 yen, you get rice, eel, and beef. The unagi tasted good, but I just felt it’s lacking something. I actually prefer the sauce of the first one more.

Despite of that, I must say that it wasn’t boney at all.

Ogakiku (大川菊)

Ogakiku is a well know traditional Japanese restaurant in Koedo, Kawagoe. They have been serving freshwater eels for generations, so you already know you are getting a LEGIT Unagi meal.

Shirayaki is an unglazed style eel, while the Unaju has a sweet sauce. The total of this teishoku is about 7,600 yen. It was indeed expensive, and yet it wasn’t even the whole bill. See my full review for this restaurant on this link.

UNAGI Challenge: Affordable vs. Expensive! Which Do You Prefer? photo

Shirayaki (on top) and Unaju (bottom)

The Unaju in Ogakiku is my favorite among all of the unagis I mentioned in this article. It just captured what my palette was yearning for, a dish with a distinct and rich flavor. The sweet sauce was not overpowering. I didn’t feel any bones, which was a BIG plus! And this one just QUICKLY melted in my mouth, like a high-end butter. It was simply cooked to perfection.

Shirayaki was also delicious, but I just prefer a tender and juicy texture.


For people who just want to have a quick bite, grabbing an unagi at the grocery store or in Tsukiya is not a bad idea. On the other hand, if you are willing to splurge from time to time to taste this delicacy, I highly suggest eating in a traditional Japanese restaurant. It can be costly, but you know your taste buds will be in cloud nine.

How about you? Which do you prefer?



Exploring the Land of the Rising Sun with my bad Japanese!


  • Tomuu

    on Aug 18

    Gosh! 7,600 yen! That is pricey. The traditional glass of juice in your picture made me giggle. The dishes look good though. In Narita town, near the airport, if I remember correctly (haven't been there in a while) it's quite common to see restaurant owners preparing eels on the side of the street. Definitely not for the queasy!

  • Bella

    on Aug 18

    Lol xD i wanted something refreshing, hence the juice ;p our total bill was actually 9,200 yen, including tax and the beverages we ordered. It was a good meal though ^_^ When i went to kanazawa, they sell it in the fish market, it was also good :) @Tomuu