A Taste of Japan's Unagi Festival at Izakaya Sensu

While Filipinos fight off the summer heat by going to the beach or gorging on refreshing treats like ice cream and halo-halo, the Japanese take the party to the markets. Every year, by the end of July and start of August, when the summer heat is at its peak, Japan celebrates the Unagi Festival. It's an ancient tradition they have kept alive by diligent participation: people would go out and cook (and of course, eat) huge quantities of unagi (eel), which is believed to counter the heat and regain energy. Restaurants and markets sell eel prepared in many different ways—from simple grilled eel placed on top of steamed rice to glazed, skewered unagi. If you have ever tried beautifully-cooked unagi, you would understand why it's such a well-loved delicacy.

At the BGC restaurant Izakaya Sensu, you too can experience a taste of this Japanese tradition with their own version of the Unagi Festival. This August and September, Izakaya Sensu offers a special unagi menu perfect for lovers of this delicious fish—or for those who haven’t tried it yet! It’s available all day so round up the gang and share a variety of delicious dishes paired with cocktails, highballs, or sake from the nearby sister restaurant, Chotto Matte.

Start with the refreshing Uzaku (PhP350), which is vinegared cucumber salad with egg and pickles, then topped with unagi. I loved how it cleanses the palate, so I eat some of it in between bites of other unagi dishes.

The Kurikara (PhP80/stick) is a good option if you want to order some drinks as well. These grilled unagi skewers come in two variants: one with teriyaki sauce and another with miso sauce. Both are really tasty—and I think perfect with some sake shots, beer, or highballs. The Junmai Daiginjo—one of the best in the world—is so good!

Craving for a huge chunk of eel? Order the Unagi Shira-Yaki (PhP650), which is simply grilled, deboned unagi with wasabi and soy sauce. I loved how fresh the eel was—boasting of a sweetish and smoky taste, not too fishy as well. They have a version with steamed rice (Una-Don), as well.

Izakaya Sensu makes really good sushi, so if you are craving for some delicious rolls, order some to share with friends from the restaurant’s extensive menu. There’s actually unagi sushi too, but I wanted to try their new rolls so I got the Smoked Salmon and Cream Cheese Rolls (PhP395), which is composed of salmon, avocado, asparagus, and cream cheese, then topped with salmon roe. Exquisite!

Left: Omakase (chef's selections); right: beef katsu, chicken wings, and pork tonkatsu

I find that this spot is perfect for after-work bites and drinks, so make sure you order some of their boozy concoctions as well. I highly recommend the Suntory Kakubin Highball (whisky, soda water, lemon), Sakura Smile (cherry-infused sake, cherry-infused vodka, lychee puree), and the matcha highball. And of course, try their artisanal sake!

See the full Unagi Festival menu below:

Izakaya Sensu/Chotto Matte
G/F, Net Park, 28th Street corner 5th Avenue, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City
Izakaya Sensu: Facebook | Instagram
Chotto Matte: Facebook | Instagram
Budget: PhP500 up

Do you like unagi? What do you think of Izakaya Sensu's unagi menu?

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