Nodaiwa specialises in unagi kabayaki (grilled eel). When we passed the restaurant on one of our weekend jaunts my curiosity was immediately piqued by their focus on one dish, so we waited outside until opening time. When the doors opened, we managed to secure ourselves a table. Fifteen minutes later the restaurant was filled up, mostly by Japanese customers. Obviously the name means something to these devotees, the Paris outlet is the only one outside Tokyo.
The menu offered a handful of options, but in summary one could choose to have the eel with rice in a bowl (unadon) or a lacquered box (unaju). The various sets differ mainly according to the weight of the fish 130g-3200g); accompaniments are pretty standard. The recipe for the grilled eel and the special accompanying source is a closely guarded secret, according to the website. I couldn't contain my curiosity and asked if the fish came from Japan. Alas no, they source them from European waters. I remember eating some of the Japanese imports at Chikuyotei restaurant in Singapore (highly delicious actually), so was quite curious to see how this would play out.
My Unadon (280g) came in a rather large bowl, of circumference wider than a child's face. Do not be fooled by the simple appearance, underneath the rice was another piece of unagi and underneath that, more rice. Accompaniments: clear dashi soup, grated radish and pickles. The fish had that requisite luscious melt-in-the-mouth tenderness, but lacked the particular combination of sweetness and depth of flavour of their Japanese cousins. Far far better than eels raised in China, but not 'wow'. Plus there was a lot of fish and rice, two layers was too much, and I had to sprinkle quite a bit of the lemony salty condiment provided on the side to even manage half of my portion.
Husband's Unaju came in a lacquered box, 320g is also a lot of eel, so much so that the rice was practically invisible. The presentation is more elegant, the red may even have an appetite-stimulating effect, and he enjoyed his share more than me.
We liked it enough to probably come back, but not so soon, perhaps when the weather gets colder. In Japan they typically eat unagi in the height of summer, but I prefer it in cooler weather. And if we do return, I'll opt for the unaju which has a more favourable fish:rice ratio. They do takeaways too.
Update 30 September: We returned, because my visiting sister C wished it, and this time we enjoyed our experience a great deal more. Their Sakura and Ran menus offered a more balanced composition of side dishes, eel and rice which are delicious but not too excessive. The fish too, was a lot more pleasing, not so fatty, and grilled so that it it's top is just a little crisp for better texture. The special sauce was indeed quite special, savoury enough to moisten and flavour without being dominantly sweet as it can get in lesser hands. All in, a superb and most enjoyable experience.
Also, my friend ttc asked about the liver of eel. This time I noticed that they include a few small morsels in the accompanying clear soups which are by the way, delectable and delicately perfumed so it stands out brightly in its own right.
Nodaiwa Paris-Tokyo :
272, rue Saint-Honoré - 75001 Paris
Tel : 01 42 86 03 42 / Fax : 01 42 86 59 97
Email : email@example.com /
Mondays-Saturdays 12h-14h30 & 19h-22h. Closed Sundays