Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Tokyo Eat: Tsunahachi - The Tempura of Dreams


3-31-8 Shinjuku, Tokyo
East exit of Shinjuku Station, across the road from Mitsukoshi Department Store on a small side street

Based on a friend's recommendation (he raved about the tempura non-stop), we chose to have it for our very first dinner on our very first trip to Tokyo. Hungry and tired (we were on the overnight flight the previous night and hardly slept), we found ourselves in the bustling and overcrowded Shinjuku, trying first to get out of the station alive and then to orientate where the hell we were. Even with the address and instructions on landmark identification in hand, we took almost an hour to find the restaurant, housed in a small brown traditional building on a side street. We almost gave up, but thankfully, a helpful tourist police pointed us the right way. Yes, Tsunahachi is THAT famous.

A good thing too that the queue outside the restaurant was quite short (but more people came after us). This particular Tsunahachi is the original store which opened in 1923, and the restaurant showed its age but gave off a great "old world" atmosphere. After shedding off our coats and shoes, we were seated along a counter where we could see the chefs making our delicious tempura.

One thing you have got to know about Samurai T and I: we are not great shoppers (my only weakness is luxury bags - ahem), but we can splurge mindlessly on food. Thanks to Samurai T, I have gained close to 10kg (!!!) since our marriage. But back to point, since by then we were practically starving, we took the easy way out and ordered the set meals (instead of selecting piece by piece). I couldn't exactly remember which sets we ordered, but the final bill came up to about 12,000 yen for 2 (almost about SGD200 based on exchange rates then). Very expensive actually, considering that it only came with rice, miso, green tea and 5 or 6 pieces of tempura, although I think Samurai T's more expensive set came with sashimi as well.

I don't know what magic batter they use, but oh man, my mouth still waters when I think about the food, which makes spending that sort of money worthwhile. The ingredients were obviously very fresh, in particular the Ebi (prawn). The texture was light and fluffy with the right amount of crunch, and for fried stuff it was surprisingly NOT oily. I could still taste the fragrance of the Yasai (vegetables) tempura - ooo lala. The chefs were obviously well-trained. The frying time was calculated precisely, and then delivered straight to the plate hot and toasty. Heaven!

I have just learnt that their lunch sets are far cheaper, so if you want to save some money you should patronise during lunch. Tsunahachi apparently has a few other shops across Japan, including Kyoto and Hokkaido, but to play it safe, it is always better to eat at the original store, for the real experience.

1 comment:

Ying Ser said...

Totally agree. Eat set lunches for lunch and a la carte for dinner. If you are really on a budget, there is always the standing sushi shop. Cheap and fresh sushi. But not all standing sushi shop are created equal and if you can read Japanese, always order the today's special, Kyo no osusume. It is usually the freshest fish.