Michelin Restaurant: Tomoei Eel, Hakone
Tomoei Eel is a Michelin Star unagiya located in Hakone and they specialised in serving the freshwaster blue eel. In fact, when we went there, they only asked whether we wanted the unaju* (grilled eel with sweet soy sauce) or shirayaki (grilled eel seasoned with salt). I think most tourists went there just to eat the eel!
We didn't make any booking at all and went there on a whim. I listed this restaurant in my itinerary but it wasn't a must-visit place for us. After we hired our Nissan Cube, we had some free time to kill before our onsen session. Since we didn't book, we were told that there was a 40 minute waiting time. We obliged and walked around the immediate area for a bit.
The eel that Tomoei used is always prepared on the day when you order it. They use spring water from 100m underground to cook their food. The spring water that they used is of the same quality with the one that sake breweries use called Miyamizu. Miyamizu is high in calcium and low in iron. The Yaizu's freshwater eels are always kept in water at 15.8 degree Celsius.
I ordered the unaju which came with a bowl of kimosui (eel liver in clear soup) and otsukemono (pickled vegetables). The smell of the sweet soy sauce really filled the room when I opened my bento box. My unagi was so plump, tender and butterflied perfectly! This dish was so perfect with some sansho (Japanese pepper). My all-eel meal (una-zukushi) was very satisfying.
I think Hubby was a bit jealous of my dish but he was entertained with the mini crab on top of his plain shirayaki. The shirayaki was really interesting to eat especially with only light soy-dipping sauce and wasabi on the sides. We could taste the smoky and smoothness of the flesh but since both of us weren't eel purists, we definitely liked the unaju better.
The restaurant is really easy to find because it's located at Odawara entrance to Hakone area. If you're unsure, Google Maps will be able to guide you there. There are two car parks available for customers. One is located right in front of the restaurant while the other one located right across the restaurant. There's a crossing bridge that you can use to walk from point A to B.
One thing to remember is that they don't have a credit card facility at the restaurant. The facility was removed so they can keep the price down for their customers. There will be days where they run out of eels as well and unfortunately you can't call and make a booking. So it'll be better if you come earlier or just be there when they open the restaurant.
Tomoei Eel opens from 11 AM - 6 PM on Saturday, Sunday and public holidays. They also open every Monday and Tuesday from 11 AM - 7 PM.
Explanation: * If unadon is eel over rice in a bowl then unaju is eel over rice in a box :-)