肥前屋 has one of the best eel rice I’ve had outside Japan. This the locals know only too well, as evidenced by the persistently long queue outside the shop, which at times has over 60 waiting customers and stretches to the next block, despite the rather out-of-the-way location of the restaurant on a back alley off Tianjin Street.
The dilemma of this shop is that for tourists (like us), the only way we can easily find it is by locating that queue – which is exactly how we managed – but then with a queue so long we didn’t want to wait! Fortunately, we were staying at Dandy Hotel Tianjin nearby and returned on the next day for a late dinner. The queue got substantially shorter after 2pm.
The shop itself was decorated like a traditional Japanese eatery. The dining area was quite crowded. Seats were small and space was limited, but that wasn’t a big problem as this is the kind of eateries where you would sit down, get your food quickly, eat and leave equally quickly.
On the service side, there really wasn’t much service to speak of, and having only spent ~US$10 per head for a delicious eel rice each, we really couldn’t complain. Table was cleaned soon after we sat down and food was served soon after ordering.
The key, though, was the eel rice. We came here after reading some very positive reviews on Taiwanese bloggers’ pages and we weren’t disappointed. The eel itself was tender and succulent yet maintained a firm texture (i.e. without falling apart) and the sauce was just like those we had when travelling to Tokyo. Strongly recommended! We should have tried some of the side dishes too.
Suggestion for those who want to visit this restaurant: going there before 12-ish or after 2pm should help avoid the lunch crowd. We managed to get in with only ~10min wait and we didn’t see the long queue when we passed by in late morning on a subsequent day.