Kaneyo Historic Kyoto Unagi Eel Joint

Kaneyo Historic Kyoto Unagi Eel Restaurant かねよ 京都鰻屋さん

Kaneyo Historic Kyoto Unagi Eel Joint (かねよ 鰻屋さん)

Kaneyo is a long-loved Kyoto eel joint thoroughly from another time and the grilled eel dishes are excellent.

Eating Out on Eel Day
On Eel Day we visited Kaneyo, one of the most famous unagi restaurants in all of Kyoto. Kaneyo is centrally located near Sanjo-Kawaramachi (intersection/neighborhood) and the Shinkyogoku Shopping Arcade.

To learn more about the history and development of ‘Eel Day’, please see this article.

Kaneyo Storefront and Takeout Eel Day Bento For Sale
Kaneyo Historic Kyoto Unagi Eel Joint (かねよ 鰻屋さん)
The dude on the right is selling unaju (unagi bento) on Eel Day. On the left, in the window is where the unagi are grilled.
About Kaneyo
Kaneyo opened in the Taisho period and has been in business for more than 100 years now. The Taisho period was a very interesting time for Japan because the country had technologically modernized however, culturally it was still purely Japanese (now it is not).

Walking into Kaneyo is to step back in time. The atmosphere, the staff, the service, the building, everything is from a different time. Kaneyo’s traditional sense is not at all sophisticated.

Everything is out of kilter about the place. Walking up the steps to the second floor is an unnerving experience. The second floor space itself is seriously warped with age. If you were to set a ball on the floor, it would roll away, and in which direction it may be difficult to foresee. The first floor has a terrazzo floor and columns that do not look just handmade, but hand-hewn! There is one large wooden round table on the first floor that is warped and worn and polished with what I imagined to be decades of elbows and eel grease. Bottled beer is kept in a tub of ice water rather than a refrigerator.

I had heard about Kaneyo for years, walked and biked past it many times, but I had never been inside. When Paku lead me in the only think that I could think was, ‘eel joint’ (as opposed to eel restaurant).

As unagi cannot yet be completely farm raised, unagi is not cheap. We paid 1,600 yen each for our eel bowls. The servings are not especially large, either. They do offer a lunch time meal for 950 yen. This price range is on par with other unagi restaurants though.

I had unagidon (unagi donburi) and Paku had unagi kinshi which unagidon with a big square omelet on top. The presentation is dramatic and while the unagi is excellent, we thought that the egg was rather tasteless. In Kyoto, egg cooked in this way should have lots of dashi in it for flavor.

Kaneyo cooks its eel over charcoal, which can be seen in the front window.

While this joint is a bit run down, the service gruff (but fairly friendly), there are more elegant places for unagi in Kyoto but there is a definite charm about Kaneyo. That blue-collar Taisho Japan is something that is surely not long for the world. If you are in Kyoto and up for unagi you probably want to put Kaneyo on your itinerary.

Unagi Donburi
Kaneyo Historic Kyoto Unagi Eel Joint (かねよ 鰻屋さん)
A lacquered bowl filled with a modest portion of rice is topped with grilled unagi. This goes extremely well with beer. The little bamboo vessel on the rice holds sansho which is sprinkled on the donburi. By the way, the tsukemono (on the right) is terrible.

Unagi Donburi – detail
Kaneyo Historic Kyoto Unagi Eel Joint (かねよ 鰻屋さん)
Notice the sansho sprinkled on the unagi.

Unagi Kinshi Don
Kaneyo Historic Kyoto Unagi Eel Joint (かねよ 鰻屋さん)
This is a great dish, it arrives at your table just like this.

Unagi Kinshi Don – detail
Kaneyo Historic Kyoto Unagi Eel Joint (かねよ 鰻屋さん)
Again, while very beautiful, the egg was less than delicious.

Unagi Kinshi Don – detail
Kaneyo Historic Kyoto Unagi Eel Joint (かねよ 鰻屋さん)
The rice and unagi sort of steams under the hot, wet egg covering.

Kaneyo Interior
Kaneyo Historic Kyoto Unagi Eel Joint (かねよ 鰻屋さん)
There is a waterfall outside in the little garden too.

Kaneyo Interior
Kaneyo Historic Kyoto Unagi Eel Joint (かねよ 鰻屋さん)
The weirdly warped table and over-abundant staff.

Kaneyo Storefront
Kaneyo Historic Kyoto Unagi Eel Joint (かねよ 鰻屋さん)

Kaneyo Storefront
Kaneyo Historic Kyoto Unagi Eel Joint (かねよ 鰻屋さん)

Kaneyo Storefront – detail
Kaneyo Historic Kyoto Unagi Eel Joint (かねよ 鰻屋さん)
We didn’t snap any piks of the second floor dining space, but if you look closely you can see how the columns and beams are not quite square with the world.

English:
English website: no
English menu: no
Location and Access: Approximately 10 minutes walk from Kawaramachi Station (Hankyu Railway), Sanjo Station (both Keian Railway and Subway Tozai Line)
Address: Kyoto-shi Nakagyo-ku Shinkyogoku Rokkaku (京都市中京区新京極六角)
Telephone: 075-221-0669
www.jin.ne.jp/kaneyo (Japanese language only)
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12 Responses to “Kaneyo Historic Kyoto Unagi Eel Joint”

  1. kat says:

    wow that was expensive, but it looked worth it!

  2. […] « Kaneyo Historic Kyoto Unagi Eel Joint Unagi Kimo (Eel Liver) »  Print This Post  Email This […]

  3. Nate says:

    That is no ordinary bowl of unagi-don, what with all that history and uniqueness of the restaurant. I’ve never seen unagi kinshi before, but your pictures and descriptions are very good.

    Why can’t eels be farm-raised?

  4. diva says:

    this place is pretty!! and oh i love the look of that square omelette. i’ll keep this place in mind till when i come visit. x

  5. one of my favorite lunches of all time is unagidon!

  6. Peko Peko says:

    Hello Everybody, Sorry, I somehow missed these comments.

    Nate- Why can’t eels be farm-raised. Ah…Paku researched it and explained it to me, but as she is the expert, let me see if I can get her to write the comment. (I think that it would be her second comment on KF)

    diva- Yes, I think that you might like this place. It is very authentic… in an odd duckish kind of way. It now seems a bit out place in this world… which makes it all the better an experience.

    Hi Jaden, I haven’t stopped by the Steamy Kitchen recently. Last time I did, I remember seeing you on TV. Will go over there now.

  7. Debby says:

    That sounds fantastic! Expecially Unagi Kinshi Don!

  8. psteier says:

    The Taisho period is 1912-1926, so the restaurant can’t have been in business for 100 years in 2008.

  9. This place was a real pleasure – we had the set meal with eel soup (with eel liver), carp sashimi, unagi and tamago (well of course with rice and tsukemono :) Great recommendation – Thanks!

  10. jonsam says:

    we are raise farm of eel;s in indonesia.call me if some one like to buy from us .+6281385862525. joni samuel

  11. […] a historic grilled eel restaurant which I had been looking forward to after reading about it on Kyoto Foodie. The area it’s in is full of fashionable shops, so we actually walked right by on the […]

  12. the ninja says:

    Lovely place, isn’t it? You feel like you’ve stepped into a little slice of pre-War Kyoto…

    Many thanks for the information in your review, used quite a lot of it in my take on Kane-Yo: http://theninjareview.com/2011/01/kane-yo-kyoto/

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