Popular unagi restaurant UYA opens in Novena with massive eel hitsumabushi, unconventional skewers, wagyu and uni rice bowls & more

by Christabel Tan

Ever since its opening at Wheelock Place, speciality restaurant UYA has remained a firm favourite in the Singapore unagi scene (if there is such a thing).

uya novena
Photo: UYA Novena

They’ve since gone on to open a second outlet at Oasia Hotel Novena, showcasing a diverse menu that goes beyond the usual unagi rice bowls.

Live eels are flown in directly on a weekly basis and prepared a la minute in various renditions — that, we know, but during my visit, it felt as if no part of the eel was spared. Seriously, I was whisked into a whole new world that completely changed what I thought I knew about unagi.

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We started off with the outlet-exclusive Smoky Unagi Ham (S$16), comprising tightly-rolled unagi grilled over sakura wood chips and served thinly sliced with a dollop of cream cheese.

As the name suggests, it really did taste like ham. Who would’ve thought? I’d love to bring my pescatarian and/or non-meat-eating friends here.

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Also exclusive to UYA Novena is the selection of speciality skewers glazed in signature homemade sauce.

Nibble on a Grilled Unagi Fin (S$6), Grilled Unagi Head (S$6), or the Kyoto-style Yahata Maki (burdock with unagi, S$9), crunchy, earthy, and mildly bitter burdock root (gobo) wrapped within unagi — which would you go for?

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We also tried a selection of small plates from the a la carte section that I wouldn’t typically order, like the Crispy Bone (S$6), or deep-fried eel spine.

uya novena
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Moving on to the opposite end of the spectrum, texture-wise, creamy eel liver can be enjoyed three ways: boiled Liver Ponzu (S$9), Grilled Liver (S$9), and Deep Fried Liver (S$9).

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I’m in no way a fan of liver (be it chicken, pork, or eel), but I found the deep-fried option to be the most palatable. Try ’em and let us know what you think!

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The simple yet delectable Grilled Eel with Salt (from S$23) was the perfect finale to what seemed like a neverending array of unconventional unagi-centric dishes.

Grilled with nothing but salt, this is a must-order for those who appreciate the natural flavours of unagi, sans the sauce!

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UYA is perhaps best known for its Hitsumabushi (S$35 for M, S$48 for L), consisting of gorgeously charred unagi served atop Niigata rice, along with a trio of condiments, homemade dashi, pickled radish, and miso soup with yuzu zest.

uya novena
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You’re meant to enjoy hitsumabushi in three ways. Start off by trying the grilled unagi and rice on their own, before complementing it with the spring onions, seaweed, and wasabi.

Finish up by pouring the light dashi broth over the unagi and rice (akin to that of ochazuke), which is, in my opinion, the best way to savour hitsumabushi.

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Alternatively, the Healthy Unagi Rice Bowl (S$29) comprises chunks of unagi, natto (fermented soybeans), nagaimo (Japanese mountain yam), okra, seaweed, Japanese ginger, and a sous vide egg. It’s certainly an acquired taste, given the slimy texture, which I wasn’t too excited about.

uya novena
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But if you’re looking to treat yourself to a non-unagi dish, the Sea Urchin and Wagyu Rice Bowl (S$55) is piled high with thinly-sliced rare beef, Hokkaido uni, and ikura with freshly grated wasabi. My dining partners and I polished off the entire bowl, so that’s saying something.

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If you still have room for the dessert, the Parfait (S$12), with its layers of matcha pudding, whipped cream, mochi balls, sweetened azuki beans, and matcha ice cream, is a fitting end to the meal.

uya novena
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In need of a long-awaited unagi treat? Pay UYA a visit — you might just be surprised!

Reservations can be made here.

UYA (Novena)
Facebook | Instagram | Website
đź“Ť 8 Sinaran Drive, #01-05 Oasia Hotel Novena, Singapore by Far East Hospitality, Singapore 307470
đź•’ 11.30–3pm, 6pm–9.30pm (Daily)

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I would gladly desert you for dessert.

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