The chef mutters something to me in Japanese. Looking at my puzzled face, he repeats the same. This time, however, he also points the sharp knife in his hand at a bowl of innards in front of him. I look at the bowl and nod with amazement.
The Hearts. They are still beating.
It does not get fresher than this and you can just tell that the chef has been doing this for years. Live freshwater eels, a slit in the head, then pinned to a chopping board, gutted, deboned and then cut. He moves from one eel to another as natural as breathing, stopping only to show tourists like me how fresh the eels are.
It then gets even better. The eels are drenched in a kabayaki sauce and charcoal grilled. Then more sauce, followed by more grilling. Slowly and repeatedly, burning off excess fat which drips onto the hot charcoal.
The taste is perfection. The flesh is moist, tender and melts in my mouth - a perfect contrast to the skin, which is crispy and slightly charred. The kabayaki sauce, having the right level of sweetness and a mild hint of bitterness, is just the way I like it. And, the innards? I think I spotted them in a bowl of soup accompanying the donburi.
A wave of sadness hits me as I leave the restaurant. I will never find anything like this in Sydney.