On my last full day in Tokyo we decided to splurge out on some tempura.
At the recommendation of one of my friends, we decided to try Mikawa Zezankyo which according to some people is supposed to be one of the best tempura restaurants in the city. A lunch set was JPY10,500. It would also be the most expensive tempura meal I have ever had. But was it worth it?
Now, I know that are lots of people who look down as tempura as just being fried fish. How hard can it be? And to those of you that have experience of British food, it kind of looks like fish and chips, but just with other fried things. After all, in the UK, or the US for that matter, it seems like you can fry anything, such as mars bars, pizzas etc. Might lead to a heart attack, but oh well.
So what what makes it so different from other fried food?
You have to elevate it to an art form.
Now, I have had good and bad tempura. The difference having experienced Mikawa is the oiliness of the food, the crispness of the batter and how well cooked (or more usually overcooked) the insides are.
Take for example the prawns above. Perfectly fried with a thin crisp coating of batter, with the prawn just cooked to slide down your palate.
So fried prawns right. What could be so good about that, you can get that anywhere right?
But what about fried prawn heads? With a delicious crunchiness with the shell meshing with a creamy inside this has always been one of my favourite tempura dishes.
Next up was kisu (whiting). With a softer (but only in comparison to the prawn) exterior and a delicate interior it was a great experience.
And a seafood broth with mash shrimp to provide some variety.
Next up with ika (squid). In most places I have found the ika to be too chewy, due no doubt to overcooking. This was a different type of ika though! As I find that people use the phrase “melt in the mouth” too much, I’m not going to say it even though I am thinking it.
Here is meguchi (3 little fish) which had a similar texture on the outside to the kisu, but a lighter flavour inside.
This is shoga (ginger) stems. A very interesting taste! The slightly tart taste of the ginger went well with a slightly thicker batter.
An anago (conger eel). The star of the show.
A crispy outer batter. With a moist, bursting with flavour flesh underneath. Truly the best anago I have ever tasted!
We were then treated to asparagus.
And shitake mushrooms. The asparagus in particular was very interesting. I didn’t know fried asparagus could taste so good! The mushrooms were crunchy on the outside and juicy on the inside.
And here are the pickles.
And miso shiro to finish off the meal. The ten don was made of small little fried clams similar to the miso shiro. Finished off with a light sauce (no extra sauce required) I was particularly impressed with the rice which had an interesting “bounce” to it and a very smooth taste.
And to finish, some sweet beans.
I have to say that this is one of the best dining experiences that I’ve had in Japan. In particular I loved the anago. To think that just a couple of years ago I had never tasted eel! I used to think that there couldn’t be much different between mid range and expensive tempura, but I’m glad to have been proven wrong!
A quiet eating 9/10.