Unagi eel, prepared in the traditional kabayaki style – broiled and basted with that delectable rich savory-sweet sauce, and served over rice. It's the taste of midsummer, the one food above all others that is supposed to get you through the long, punishing days of heat.
So what better time to celebrate this supreme summer specialty than the official "Unagi Day" – Doyo Ushi no Hi (the Day of the Ox in the Summer Mid-season)?
The image at the top is the official poster from the Unagi Association. Here (below) is it hanging outside an old favourite unagiya (Yoshino is not famous, not the best in town and only worth knowing if you're in the area) that still prepares the eel in the traditional way, over charcoal.
What, no photos of the food itself? Not this year, and especially not on this day of all days. The hype and hullaballoo about eating unagi in summer has driven the fish to the brink of extinction.
So I won't be joining the herd by actually ordering kabayaki today. But I've put up plenty of blog posts in years past. I shall feed my eyes on those and look forward to some future time when I know that unagi stocks have stabilised.
Here is what I ate a couple of years ago at this same unagiya…
Here is how they do it at the wonderful Nodaiwa in Azabu (which makes a point of staying closed on "Unagi Day")…
And here is one of the classic (though not so old) unagiya of downtown Tokyo that I just love for its unassuming architecture and careful craftsmanship.