Thursday, June 11, 2009

Ten-ichi ♥

WARNING: If you are a tempura fan, please exit this page NOW.


ten-ichi tokyo

I am no big fan of deep fried battered things, save for Muscle Beach waffle dogs which I develop an occasional craving for about twice a year. I like my food pan-seared, baked, or sauteed. But being in Japan and not eating one of it's most popular dishes is one crime I will never forgive myself for. Also, feeling generous, I am willing to give those golden crispers a chance to possess little spaces in my heart.

I search for the best place in Tokyo to celebrate this new found generosity towards tempura. After multiple unsuccessful tries to secure seats at Kondo (fully booked Friday lunch, Friday dinner, Saturday lunch, Saturday dinner), I google frantically for an alternative that is as good. Then Cary, the same Cary who I owe my best steak experience to, recommends Ten-ichi and gets me reservations that same day. "Guaranteed the best, even by locals!"

So Friday lunch comes and we finally arrive at THE restaurant. With the best reviews, the most pictures of politicians and celebrities from all over the world hanging on its walls, Ten-ichi arouses in me that kind of anticipation and expectation a child feels on a Christmas morning.

We enter the restaurant and BAM!!!

ten-ichi tokyo IT IS EMPTY!!!!!!

Aside from the sugar daddy and mistress father and daughter pair seated next to us, the place is deserted. On a Friday lunch in the upmarket shopping-dining-entertainment district of Ginza, this is not a very good sign. I pray for positivism and an open mind as I take my seat at the tempura bar.

ten-ichi tokyo shrimp tempura Shrimp Tempura – good, but not great. I’ve definitely had better


b15 Fish Tempura – again, I’ve had better


b16Asparagus Tempura – this is done very well. The spears are fresh and sweet, crisp on the outside, soft on the inside.


b17 Squid Tempura – just ordinary


b18 Eggplant Tempura – I like that the chef uses baby eggplants instead of sliced pieces of the long variety. Deep purple is just so sexy!


b19 Fish Tempura – quite good but nothing extraordinary


b20 Lotus Root Tempura – crunchinesssss!


b21 Mixed Seafood Tempura – the winner!


b22 Pickles - didn't give me the tickles


b23 Red Miso Soup – forgettable


I am still waiting for that surprise and "Wow, OMG!" factor when the server brings us the bill. Huwwhhhaaatttt?!?!?! That is it?!?!?!?!?! So we each pay the ¥9,500+10% bill (which turns out to be the only OMG! factor of this meal) and leave the restaurant feeling cheated/robbed/spoofed.

Tempura is all about the batter, the ingredients, and the deep frying technique, and Ten-ichi gets all three right. The batter is light, crisp and there is no trace of grease. Service is also good, the chef fries our food one piece at a time, at the pace we dictate. But somehow, somewhere, something is still missing. Having been around for over 70 years now, Ten-ichi must be doing something right, but for me it is really just another overrated restaurant. Is it just me or is that really all there is to even the best tempura, I do not know.

And I guess I will never know. Sorry, little deep fried battered creatures, but there is no place for you in my heart. And as for Cary, it's ok, man, nobody's perfect.

Ten-ichi 天一 : 6-6-5 Ginza, Chūō-ku. 東京都中央区銀座6-6-5. Tel: +81-3-3571-1949

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