Ahh food! The most exciting thing in life. The thing that keeps me alive day to day. Quite literally. Why am I talking about food you ask? Well, like everything in this world there also exist things called luxury foods in this world. More often than not the reason it’s a luxury is quite dark but no matter what food is food and we’ll devour em till they go poof. Such a food is Unagi.
Unagi? The heck is that mate?
Unagi is the name of the endangered Japanese eel. As prized as Kobe beef and more endangered; this fishy is on the straight path to extinction. So much so that even the EU pondered a ban on this fish in the Atlantic. The Japanese government, in 2013, announced that the unagi population declined by roughly 90 percent in the last three decades. Japanese Fishery Agencies have even reported that the cultivation of baby eels plummeted to 15.4 tons from 18.9 tons.
Exactly how rare is Unagi these days?
The unagi has become so scarce that eel smuggling is serious business these days. After all this, you would expect that the Japanese will be cutting this fishy some slack but nah. 75% of the world’s Unagi is consumed by them alone. Ninety nine percent of which comes from industrial farms. Bluefin Tuna just got an unexpected comrade. May you of you fishies chill in heaven.
In 2018, the production has fallen down to a mere ten tons and the price is rising unchecked. A mere pound of unagi can go for upwards of $14,000 USD. That’s 28.8 kilos of silver. I can be a professional vampire hunter with that much silver. Heck, I can even make silverware out of it and I will still have enough left to kill those blood-suckers.
Why are we talking about them though?
Well, I mentioned the Unagi because two new restaurants in NYC have started serving this expensive delicacy. Now, I am no king, but after coming across their preparations I must say that sometimes spending more is THE way to go. Especially when in comes to enjoying this particular delicacy.
Now, you may say that after all that talk of extinction this is inappropriate. Therefore, I will try to describe the dishes to you the best way I can and then you can decide for yourself whether you want to spend your hard-earned bucks.
The Hidden Gem.
The first, Hachibei is hidden away on the second floor of a mid town building. Stark black walls, slate gray floor and red curtains along a single wall are part of this unassuming restaurant’s decor. Don’t be driven away by all this though. Their unagi preparation will blow your socks off along with 43 other people that happen to be there.
The unagi is delicately butterflied and marinated in sauce made from Hachibei’s own recipe. After that, it is slow-grilled until tender while they brush it with more of that same sauce. They serve it in a lacquered box on top of rice and a salad, clear soup, chilled tofu with scallion and ginger, and Daikon pickles.
The texture resembles a juicy medium-rare tenderloin crossed with a well-cooked white fish. There are two preparations to choose from. Both come from different parts of Japan. The East coast version is more tender because they steam it before grilling. The west coast version of this unagi dish simply grilled. This results in a firmer and crispier skin.
What’s the price of this fabulous dish you ask? Don’t worry. This dish will only cost you $25 or $45 during lunch; $55 or $75 during dinner depending on the size of your portion. Definitely better than spending $$$ on foods that contain gold just for the sake of it.
The personal touch.
Unagi, on the other hand allows only 16 people to enjoy the dish at a given time. The restaurant is located at 60 Kenmare St., between Mulberry and Mott streets. It features a 1,000-pound eel tank where you can see your victims cower in fear before being ruthlessly consumed.
Their head chef Hiroki Fukushima will prepare the unagi for you.
The eel will take a bath in soya sauce and sugar before being grilled atop charcoals. After this, the eel is beautifully served over rice. You can also order grilled eel liver and grilled sea weed if you desire.
At $29 for half an unagi this restaurant is not overpriced either. Considering that a baby eel costs $25 to raise, these restaurants could have charged a lot higher.
Why should I eat Unagi though?
Well, for starters it is EXTREMELY delicious. But that’s the start.
It is also rich in Omega 3 fatty acids and proteins. Not to mention that it may soon be extinct.
What are you waiting for then? Go ahead! Try one today!