Nodaiwa: Unagi Restaurant


Nodaiwa is a traditional unagi restaurant (grilled freshwater eel) established during the late 18th century in Tokyo. This michelin-star restaurant has 4 locations in Tokyo and one in Paris. Its main location is in Azabu, near Tokyo Tower. The 5th generation chef, KANEMOTO Kanejiro, is running the restaurant.

The building in Kamiyacho is an old style kura (storehouse) brought to Tokyo from Takayama in Gifu Prefecture. the restaurant stands out juxtaposed to the tall office buildings around it. The shop in Azabu dates from the 1970s, but the history of the restaurant goes back 200 years with the first chef opening a restaurant called “Nodaya” in Azabu during the Kansei years (1789-1801). Many articles throw around the year 1850 around as the year of establishment.  The Japanese articles just state late Edo period (1603-1868) or the Kansei years (1789-1801).

Smokes & Ears

If I had a bucket list, or more importantly a culinary bucket list this would be near the top.  It wouldn’t be McCradey’s or Husk in Charleston, it wouldn’t be one of the numerous fine dining restaurants in Atlanta or New Orleans…it would be these two humble little sandwiches steeped in history.

Chris Cosentino “Chef Unleashed”

One of my favorite “celebrity” chefs is Chris Cosentino of the restaurant Incanto.  You may also know him from episodes of such shows as: No Reservations, Next Iron Chef, Top Chef Masters, Chef vs. City, etc.  About a 1 1/2 years ago he worked on the pilot for a show called, “Chef Unleashed.”  Unfortunately this show was never taken up and rejected.  What follows is the video of his pilot.  Cosentino described the show,

“The impulse behind the show was simple:  Everybody onboard loves food, is fascinated by where it comes from, and is not squeamish about how to get it, whether it might be game hunted on open terrain or tuna hand-gaffed by blood-soaked Sicilian fisherman, a tradition that goes back 1,000 years.  As the guys wrote in their proposal, “Chef Unleashed invites the viewer on a global eating exploration.  It’s a new kind of reality show, about where good food really comes from—when it’s done right.”

The show could be pretty graphic in parts and Chris Cosentino knew that,

“Yes, we were pretty aware that we were, to repeat the phrase, pushing the envelope with this.  And I admit, it was pretty gory stuff.  If you watch, you’ll see my very real reaction to it.  But this was not – at all – about shock value.  This was all about getting down to the very source of the very best food and showing where it comes from.  People who know me know I’ve been waging war against our Styrofoam-wrapped, hormone-pumped supermarket culture my entire career.”

Chef Unleashed from Chris Cosentino on Vimeo.