One thing and one thing only goes on the grill at Kabuto, and while freshwater eel might not appeal to less adventurous eaters, it’s impossible not to be intrigued by what this no-frills street stall has to offer when you see salarymen hunched over the counter with their small blue plates of unagi on skewers. You can order skewers consisting of your chosen eel part, or go straight for theset which will give you a taste of just about every part of eel anatomy, head, bones and all. You can order beer to accompany your snack, or get a glass of nihonshu (Japanese sake) and sweeten it to your liking with the flask of plum syrup on the counter.
The beauty of Omoide Yokocho, a cluster of tight alleyways in Shinjuku brightly lit with paper lanterns and crammed with small eateries, lies in the unglamorous nature of its dripping pipes, smokey air and remnants of bygone days.
This immensely photogenic yokocho, often referred to as ‘Memory Lane’ – the word ‘omoide’ loosely translates to ‘nostalgia’– dates back to the post-war period when many of these shops made money as entertainment bars or by selling black market goods at a time when commodities were heavily controlled by the government. Yakitori and motsu (innards) shops were common because animal entrails were among the produce that were unregulated by the authorities.
While you’ll no longer come across any cabarets in these parts, you can still pull up a stool to a counter and savour the same popular delicacies that generations have enjoyed over good conversation and plenty of booze.
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