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Found on the road bordering Ueno Park, this old-fashioned eel restaurant attracts a stream of tourists, but it’s also patronised by local Tokyoites who appreciate eel that’s handled with expertise in the traditional way. On the upper floor there are no-shoes tables with footwells, which give the impression of sitting on a tatami mat but without the discomfort; the window seats have views of the park. Kimono-clad waitresses can bring you the English menu, to choose from a variety of set meals. The cheapest of these is a set lunch costing ¥2,160, which includes a little bowl of miso soup and pickles; unagi is never cheap. The kabayaki (charcoal-grilled eels) are served on a bed of rice in a lacquer box, basted with a thick soy-based sauce. Simple, but quite delicious, the eel having no fishy aroma whatsoever but instead having a meaty quality. If you find it a little plain, you can pep it up with the traditional accompaniment, a light dusting of sansho pepper, which has a slightly numbing effect on the palate – so go easy with it. Izu-Ei might be starting to look and feel a bit tired and worn, but for a lunch near Ueno Park, it’s still a good option.
2-12-22 Ueno, Taito-ku
|Transport:||Ueno Station, park exit/exit 6|
|Opening hours:||11am-10pm (last orders 9.30pm)|