If you are, like I am, an aficionado of grilled eel, you do not need to go further than to Noboritei. Yes, it’s an eatery… perhaps you could call it a “fast-food” eel place. But what they offer is delicious.
The restaurant offers a simple seating area, impeccably clean wooden tables and chairs. You order (I’m not sure whether English is spoken; I could manage with my Japanese). Service is quick and pleasant, and I am sure that even a non-Japanese speaker would not be lost. You look around… a lot of business types enjoying a nice lunch: grilled eel served on rice (kabayaki).
Initially a fishmonger named Nakaichi, in 1952, Noboritei moved to the Nihombashi-Muromachi area under the 6th owner, Takamitsu Tanaka; the name of the restaurant coming from the phrase Unagi-nobori (lit: ‘eels go up’ but used to mean rapid success and prosperity).
At the time, eating eel was a luxury few could afford until Noboritei worked to reduce prices and revolutionize serving styles; the norm at the time was one eel serving one person, whereas Noboritei offered ‘don’ dishes – eel served on a bed of rice’ – utilizing different sizes of eel, large and small.
Later, in 1957, Noboritei invented the kabayaki (grilled-eel on a skewer) for ¥60 apiece, which remains as it always has, today one of the most popular such items at department stores and supermarkets alike.