Friday, May 6, 2016

One Dish Wonder in Miyajima

We decided to have lunch first before we went sightseeing as we stepped out of the ferry into the picturesque Miyajima Island just off Hiroshima. After all since we were spending the night here there's no need to rush through all the scenic spots like most tourists on day trip had to do. And our first lunch destination was at a small restaurant called Fujitaya, the only Michelin-starred restaurant on this tiny island.

The restaurant is located about 20 minutes away from the pier, a little further up from the famous Itsukushima Shrine. It could be a bit hard to find since it's well-blended into the rows of houses in the residential area with only a small signs hanging outside along a small unnamed footpath.

Inside the place is compact with only a handful of tables and a few counter seats in front of the open kitchen, so be prepared for a little wait even during off-peak hour (sorry, they don't take reservations). The signature item at Fujitaya is Anago-meshi, or conger eel on rice. In fact that's the only dish available on the menu (plus a few special appetizer items available occasionally) so that saved us the trouble of reading the menu and deciding what to eat.

Our food arrived soon after we sat down at the table. For what I thought was a simple order of rice, the presentation was spectacular. It was served in a large and colorful ceramics bowl with a fancy wooden lid on top, and as I lifted the lid, I saw pieces of grilled conger eel beautifully arranged in rows inside which covered the entire bowl with the rice underneath.

Not to be confused with Unagi, Anago's freshwater "cousin" more commonly used for rice bowl dishes elsewhere, here in Fujitaya conger eels were caught in the wild in Seto Inner Sea nearby and grilled on charcoal fire with a light glaze of savory-sweet tare sauce. It was then cut into bite-sized pieces and laid neatly in rows on top of the steamed rice. Compared to unagi, anago tends to be leaner but with a much richer taste. I thought it's well-cooked with a firm texture and with just the right amount of sauce brushed on top for a balanced flavor, without overwhelming the taste of the conger eel itself. Both the rice and eels came in generous portion too - I thought there's probably one whole eel in each bowl of rice. On the side there was a bowl of clear soup made with the eel liver, plus a small plate of house-made pickles - they were both delicious.

After we finished our meal we saw there's already a few groups of people waiting for the table at the door, so I guess we made the right choice of beating the crowd for an early lunch. And oh, the shop will close when they ran out of anago, so better early than sorry, especially if you had to make a detour for this.

Miyajima is a must-visit site in the region, with the famous floating torii gate in the water considered one of the top 3 sightseeing spots in whole of Japan, and if you are around, I would recommend Fujitaya as one of the places you should visit too.

When? April 25 2016
Where? Fujitaya 125-2 Miyajimacho, Hatsukaichi, Hiroshima Prefecture
ふじたや 広島県廿日市市宮島町125-2
Menu Highlights? Anago-meshi

Kyushu + Hiroshima Travel "Series":
1. Day 2: Motsunube Treat in Fukuoka
2. Day 3: One Dish Wonder
3. Day 3: Ryokan by the Park
4. Day 4: Oysters for Breakfast
5. Day 4: Hiroshima's Okonomiyaki
6. Day 4: Three Stars in Hiroshima
7. Day 5: Abalone Cuisine in Karatsu
8. Day 6: Top Morning Market? What?
9. Day 6: Hip Ryokan in Ureshino
10. Day 6: China on the Park
11. Day 7: Arita Ceramics Fair - The Real Deal
12. Day 8: Seiromushi Pit Stop
13. Flickr Album: Kyushu + Hiroshima 2016
14. Flickr Album: Food from Kyushu + Hiroshima Trip

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