Fans swear this sushi restaurant’s butter unagi is amazing, so we taste-tested it.

There’s nothing unusual about adding a pat of butter to toast or pancakes, but most people in Japan would say putting it on sushi is committing culinary sacrilege. But a while back we heard about a restaurant that does just that, and not some gimmicky conveyor belt sushi joint or a restaurant that caters exclusively to unadventurous foreigners.

As a matter of fact, from the outside, Jinen, the restaurant that serves butter sushi, looks downright traditional.

Jinen has four locations in Osaka, and after hearing rumors about the deliciousness of its butter sushi for some time, we decided we had to try it for ourselves. So we made our way to the branch in Osaka’s Umeda district and took a seat.

Customers don’t just slap butter onto their sushi willy-nilly, though. Jinen offers one specific type of sushi, unagi (freshwater eel) with butter. According to the restaurant, it’s actually the second-most popular thing on their menu among female diners, trailing only the ever-popular toro (fatty tuna).

▼ Jinen’s butter unagi sushi

At 486 yen (US$4.30) for two pieces, the butter unagi isn’t exactly what you’d call a budget dining option. However, it’s still a reasonable price for a non-revolving sushi restaurant, considering that unagi itself is a premium ingredient.

Before taking a bite, we gazed affectionately at morsels, noticing that the butter was starting to melt ever so slightly, and ever so tantalizingly, onto the unagi.

Still, we couldn’t help but be a little skeptical. After all, unagi is a distinctly Japanese ingredient, while butter is something that was unknown in Japan until the introduction of Western cuisine. Could these two components actually make for a good combination?

As soon as we popped a piece in our mouth, we had our answer: yes! Unagi sushi is somewhat unique in that it’s served with a sweet sauce drizzled on the eel, and when this mixed with the melting butter, the result was decadently rich and immensely satisfying. In addition, unagi is grilled before being used for sushi, which probably helps for a more harmonious synergy than what’d you’d get putting butter on raw fish.

The butter unagi isn’t Jinen’s only unique offering, either. If you’re looking for other creative sushi, the restaurant also has duck with camembert cheese served nigiri-style, as well as menegi (green onion bud) rolls

Another standout is the yamatsun, with a crisp slice of yamaimo (Japanese yam) that’s been pickled in a spicy, wasabi-tasting solution to give it a spicy kick (“tsun” in Japanese).

The menu also has mundane, yet still tasty, sushi like tuna rolls and angler fish.

The menu’s variety is even reflected in Jinen’s clientele. When we stopped by, there was a wide range of customer ages, as well as a pretty even mix of men and women, which seems fitting for a restaurant that seemingly offers a little something for traditionalists and novelty seekers alike.

Restaurant information
Jinen (Umeda Ohatsutenjin branch) / じねん(梅田お初天神店)
Address: Osak-fu, Osaka-shi, Kita-ku, Sonexaki 2-5-24, Chuo Building 1st floor
大阪府大阪市北区曾根崎2-5-24 中央ビル1F
Open 5 p.m.-4 a.m.

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