No. 12, Lane 119, Linsen North Road, Taipei, Taiwan
Recommendation: 4.5 Stars
Taipei's infamous "Linsen North Road" is known for its "fun" and scandalous entertainment establishments as well as many of the most traditional Japanese restaurants in Taiwan. Situated in the historical Seventh Lane Alley 七條通, Hamamatsuya is one of Taipei's "Big 4 Eel Houses"! Their acclaimed made-to-order (or kill-to-order) Unagi (Eel) Rice Three Way 現殺鰻魚三吃 never fails to charm and satisfy Taipei-ers's picky taste!
Hamamatsuya's dark wood exterior and mini standalone shop sign complements with other Japanese homestyle restaurants in the area. Strolling along Seventh Lane Alley 七條通, I felt as if I was in an old shopping street in Japan.
Hamamatsuya's unagi rice differentiates from others by offering live and grill-to-order eels. While it may be a bit pricier, the money is totally worth it. Since our eels are freshly prepared, the wait can be up to 45 minutes, so we ordered a couple small dishes to eat while we patiently waited!
When our waitress brought us the visually appetizing Tamago (Japanese omelette), I could still see hot steams coming off the glowing golden tamago. With a tiny dip of soy sauce and ground radish, the simple and comfortable taste of egg will make you wanting for more.
Fried Chicken 唐揚炸雞
You can't really go wrong with Japanese fried chicken! The seasoned chicken cutlets were both juicy and tender.
Fried Tofu 炸豆腐
Fresh Unagi Rice Three Way 現殺鰻魚三吃
Finally, the highlight of the meal was the Fresh Unagi Rice Three Way, which came with a bowl of fresh unagi rice, hot spring egg, a plate of seasonings, seaweed soup stock, and a side of pickles and kimchi. The waitress carefully explained the three (or actually four) different ways of chowing down the ungai rice. I wasn't really listening, because I was really hungry by then and can't wait to devour the entire ungai bowl!
Fresh Eel Three Way
Covered by a thin layer of natural eel fat, the grilled unagi was literally glowing. At the same time, the excellent smell of unagi sauce mesmerized everyone at the table.
Followed what the waitress had told us, I split my unagi bowl equally into four sections. Each portion will be eaten in a slightly different way.
1. Original: First, obviously, I want to try the original taste of the eel without any decorations or seasonings - a way to really enjoy the freshness of the unagi.
2. With Garnishes: Sprinkle a generous amount of sesame seeds, green scallion, and dried seaweed to add multiple textures and flavors to the simple dish.
with garnishes of Seaweed, Sesame, and Scallion 海苔, 芝麻, 青蔥
3. Chazuke Style: Chazuke is a traditional Japanese home cooking dish by pouring green tea, soup stock, or hot water over cooked rice with savory toppings. For the Unagi Rice Three Way, Hamamatsuya prepared a fragrant seaweed soup stock as the base. I also mixed a pinch of wasabi into the small bowl. Surprisingly, I was absolutely blown away by this plain-looking dish! The smooth seaweed soup and the strong sensation of wasabi brought a complex and hypnotizing taste that I had never experience before.
Chazuke: seaweed soup stock, wasabi 鰻魚芥末茶泡飯
4. With Hot Spring Egg: At last, I place the watery hot spring egg (half cooked egg) on top of my last piece of unagi and stirred them together. It was divine. I really can't decide whether this or the chazuke style was my favorite.
with hot spring egg 溫泉蛋
Hamamatsuya introduced new ways of enjoying the simple and popular eel bowl and allowed my palate to experience different sensations. The restaurant's Fresh Unagi Rice Three Way was both amusingly fun and absolutely delicious. One order might not completely satisfy my cravings; next time I will order two!