Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Very Best Dinner at Tempura Fukamachi

I was surprised when I realized how long it has been since I last visited Tempura Fukamachi. Over the years I had the opportunity to check out a few tempura outlets around Tokyo, and so far Fukamachi was the one I love most. And therefore I felt obligated to come back this time when I was in Tokyo, even if that meant I need to change my schedule to fit the dinner in.

The restaurant was located right behind at a side alley just right behind Kyobashi metro station, in between the business districts of Nihonbashi and Ginza. Owner Masao Fukamachi opened this restaurant in 2002 after spending three decades at the famous Hilltop Hotel and now he and his son, Kazuma, split the cooking duties at this small restaurant, with most of the seats across the L-shaped counter in front of the kitchen. 

The restaurant was already packed with people when I arrived at slightly over 8pm. I was seated at the front side of the counter, directly facing the two copper deep-frying pot from which all the food was cooked. Three menus were available for dinner, differed by the number of items served, each with a combination of seafood and vegetables. I decided to go for the most basic set then maybe ask for some additional items a la carte later on, as I usually do.

I started with a simple dish of nama yuba (raw tofu sheet) served with a dab of wasabi and shoyu while both chefs began to prepare for the ingredients for my tempura courses. All together 11 pieces were served in sequence, starting with the two shrimp heads, then the shrimps, corn, manganji pepper, kisu (whiting) and megochi (flathead) fish, eggplant, chi ayu (baby sweetfish), lotus root, asparagus and ended with anago (sea eel).

I came with high expectations and this definitely exceeded it. All the pieces were insanely good. The shrimp head was fried with the perfect crispness and the bodies have great bouncy texture inside the lightly coated batter - an indication of the freshness of the ingredients themselves. Corn has always been my favorite here and the thin slice was sweet and contrasted by just the right amount of golden, slightly burnt flavor from the batter. Manganji Pepper was one of the seasonal vegetables served in the evening, and the batter was so thin that it's almost translucent while being able to hang on to the entire pepper. That was an amazing piece of work.

The Kisu fish - a staple item in traditional tempura course - came in very good size and has a lighter but delicate flavor. But tonight I prefer the Megochi better with its stronger taste and almost creamy texture. I wasn't usually a fan of Mizunasu (Japanese eggplant) but the one I had was great - except it's so juicy and hot that it burnt my lips. Oops. It's a tricky one to cook because of the eggplant's high water content but Fukamachi-san did so brilliantly. The Chi Ayu - baby version of sweetfish - was wonderful with a mildly bitter after-taste (from its liver) but well-balanced with the thick batter coated on top. The lotus root spent a little more time in the pot than the rest, giving it an extra golden color and richer taste, which worked very well with the crunchy thick slice of lotus root. Both the lotus roots and the asparagus which followed represented one of the very best I have had anywhere in my memory. Okay, the anago, or sea eel, still couldn't beat the one I had at Mikawa Zezankyo but this one was still more than decent.

When Fukamachi-san asked whether I would like to order more, I seriously contemplated whether I could tell them to do all 11 pieces again - yes that's how good I think the food were - but I held that thought and just ordered four additional ones. The shrimp and corn were the ones I chose for an encore - for they were my favorites of the evening - and then I asked for awabi (abalone) and uni (sea urchin) which were not included in the original courses. The thick slice of abalone was cut in half before coated in batter and deep-fried, and it's served with the abalone liver sauce on the side. First time I had this combination in tempura form and it was nice - I essentially wiped the sauce clean off the small dish at the end. Uni Tempura is a signature item here so I think it's a crime to leave the place without ordering, but I didn't remember it being this huge with a palm-sized oba leaf folded in half and filled with tongues of sea urchin in every bite. So big that I had difficulties holding it properly with my chopsticks and it was sumptuous to the max. That itself was worth the visit.

You would think by then I wouldn't have room to finish the Tendon - rice served with a deep-fried patty of small shrimps and scallops and with pickles and red miso soup on the side - as the last savory course, but no, I finished every bit of every grain in the bowl as well. I usually wouldn't think much for dessert fancier than maybe a basic scoop of icecream, but not this time. It's a small bowl of the seasonal peaches done 3 way - confit, jelly and sorbet. Unbelievable to have tried something like this at a tempura restaurant.

With most of the time spent on the road and in the countryside during the trip this time, I ended up only with one day when I splurged on meals. And I am pleased that one of those meals was at Tempura Fukamachi. It was satisfying.

More photos in my Flickr album:
My previous visit (in Chinese):

When? July 28 2015
Where? Tempura Fukamachi, Kyobashi 2-5-2, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
深町 東京都中央区京橋2-5-2
Menu Highlights? Everything, particularly, Shrimp, Corn, Abalone and Sea Urchin
Drinks? Higan Daiginjo, Taiyo Brewery, Niigata Prefecture (大吟醸 鄙願 - 新潟県 大洋酒造)
Web: (Tabelog)

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