Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Hitsumabushi @ Uya Singapore Unagi 四代目菊川 at Wheelock Place Orchard Road


I enjoyed an excellent Hitsumabushi or grilled eel with rice at the recently opened Uya Singapore unagi restaurant at Wheelock Place (conveniently located at Orchard MRT station). Uya serves authentic Hitsumabushi made with live eels prepared by a Japanese crew in the kitchen.


I had the privilege to visit the eel room where the weekly supply of live eels are kept. Uya Singapore uses export grade eels from a top farm in Taiwan which supplies mainly to Japan. Japanese partner Kikugawa-san is a renowned fourth generation eel wholesaler and owner of 四代目菊川 unagi restaurant in Nagoya, Japan.

The eels are kept alive in cool running water at 16℃. The fish were lively, squirming and flailing energetically - it took quite a lot of effort to keep it still for the picture above 😄

The live eels are prepared when an order is received. The cutting was swift and precise. That noise you hear in the background is the sound of water jets that keep the water flowing in the tubs that contain the live eels.

Uya use 3P size eels (meaning 3 fish per kilo i.e. about 330 grams per fish) for best thickness, tenderness and plumpness.


The freshly filleted eel ready for grilling in two steps - shirayaki (grilling without sauce) followed by kabayaki (grilling with sauce).


Head Chef Kojima Koji and his team grill the eel fillet over flaming hot coal. It was very hot inside the kitchen when I took this picture - I had to lean over the stove to get this angle 😅 

Chef Koji hails from Nagoya, the capital of Hitsumabushi where he had over a decade of restaurant experience.

Head Chef Koji looked so cool fanning the eel fillet with that traditional red paper fan. Holding those skewers in a fan shape reminded me of the 1990 movie Edward Scissorhands 😂 Who remembers?


The eel fillets are first grilled without sauce (shirayaki), dunked in a proprietary tare sauce developed by 四代目菊川four generations ago and then grilled over flaming hot coals till they are crisp outside (kabayaki).


I had the large signature Hitsumabushi set which costs S$48++. The medium serving costs S$35++.


The grilled unagi set on top of white rice drizzled with unagi sauce was presented with the inside facing out. It was grilled to a nice golden brown colour with a bit of caramelisation here and there at the edges.

There was the lovely aroma of caramelised sauce escaping when I just opened the bento box.


The grilled unagi is cut into bite size strips.

I started at the tail (crispiest) and worked my way to the mid section (softer).

The tail was tender, lean and grilled to a fine crisp outside. The caramelised outside was savoury while the meat inside was subtly sweet.


The mid section was meatier, more tender, more moist. There was more eel meat sweetness and less savoury caramelised sauce flavour here. I like it that there was no sugary taste, just natural sweetness.


Nicely crisped skin which had a subtle toasty taste.

I did not bite into any bone at all throughout my meal.

As I enjoyed the eel's natural flavours so much, I did not pay much attention to the wasabi, condiments and what not 😛


I like Uya's white rice as it was tender yet firm with a nice springy chew to the bite. The rice was sweet and drizzled with delicately savoury sweet unagi sauce which balanced the rice's sweetness. The slightly more robust savoury sweet flavours from the grilled eel juices which trickled into the rice below, added interesting notes to the rice.


I also had eel liver - both boiled and grilled after dipping in unagi sauce (kimoyaki).


The eel liver was simply boiled and served. It had a nice softness and light spring to the bite. In the mouth, it was creamy and had a delicate kind of bitter sweet taste. Dipped into the savoury sauce, it turned into a delicious savoury sweet treat with a delicate underlying bitter note.


Enveloping the eel liver in savoury sweet sauce and grilling it took away the natural flavour and creamy texture of the liver. To each his own, but my preference is for the boiled eel liver 😄 (I know some people might find the natural taste of eel liver "funny" 😂 )


I snapped this picture when I stepped in the restaurant before the lunch crowd arrived. Uya sports a contemporary Japanese decor with traditional touches - minimalist, functional, elegant and comfortable. Like a Zen garden with a gold Autumn tree as the centrepiece.


The restaurant filled up very quickly soon after opening for lunch at 12 noon.


👉 Premium quality live eels, prepared and cooked by skillful Japanese chefs, earnest attentive service staff, comfortable pleasant ambiance. Delicious Hitsumabushi, full natural unagi flavours delivered with finesse in delicate fine bites with sauces that complement (not overwhelm the fish). Justifies the slightly premium pricing.

Read more about the other live unagi place in Singapore - Man Man at Keong Saik Road 👈 click

Disclosure: Please note that this was an invited tasting.


Restaurant: Uya Singapore Unagi


Address501 Orchard Road #02-15/16 Wheelock Place Singapore 238880  
GPS1°18'18.0"N 103°49'52.6"E | 1.305003, 103.831289
Nearest MRT: Orchard
Tel6732 1096
Hours12:00 noon – 2:30pm | 6:00pm – 9:30pm

Date visited: 30 Jan 2018

Return to Johor Kaki homepage.


  1. why some unagi got bones and some dont.

    can you tell before ordering if one would have bones

    and does all unagi served in that place come without any bones.

    i dont like those small bones. got it from eating ungai previously

    thank you.

  2. Dear Anonymous
    I totally understand your concern as I have personally tasted such unagi before.
    The presence of bones in unagi is determined by size of unagi, as well as skill of the chef in cutting and grilling the unagi. Generally, the long bones will be cut away in a swift action which you may have seen in Johor Kaki's video. The small bones are the irritating ones that may either be felt or just melt with the flesh. Smaller unagi will have finer bones and fine grilling techniques can melt the bones into the flesh.
    We are proud to say that the unagi served in Uya四代目菊川 has little issues with bones. I personally have been feeding my 3yo unagi after tasting the unagi for 2 weeks and satisfied that they are quite safe for the kids.
    Having said that, while we strive to provide unagi safe from bones, we also ask that you exercise caution in consuming.


I share hoping that everyone will have a good time but your experience may differ from mine. I love to know how you enjoyed yourself or if you didn't.

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