Friday, March 3, 2017

Feb-ulous Kyoto: Tempura at the Counter

We tried our luck in getting a couple of seats at the counter of Tempura Yoshikawa for lunch without a booking and glad we were seated right away when we arrived after the morning visit to Nijo Castle a couple of blocks away. The kitchen primarily serves the guests of their 8-room ryokan, but it also serves lunch at a cozy 11-seat counter inside a wooden house next door.

Two different menus were available, differed by the number of items. Not having eaten since early morning (like 6am as we got off the flight), obviously we went for one with the most courses. We began with a pair of prawns – not the biggest I have ever had, but I like the light batter and perfectly cooked by the chef working right in front of us. The warm sauce with mashed daikon, regular salt and sansho-spiced salt were available as condiments, but most of the time a slight dab on the sansho salt was all I needed.

A mix of other vegetables were then served – of those I love the seasonal fukinoto (butterbur bulbs) the most. It’s a classic tempura dish characterized by the slight bitterness - the typical taste of spring, as some might say. I love fukinoto for its complex, unusual flavor, available only this time of the year. Other vegetables included the usual suspects such as baby corn, pumpkin, endo-beans, mushrooms and shishito peppers. All of them were consistently decent.

Two seafood items were served, in addition to the 3 prawns (two at the beginning of our meal, one more at the end). The tachuio (beltfish) came in very good size and I love the firm texture. The crab leg was also the seasonal item available only during winter and was delicious – reminded me a little bit of those Canto deep-fried seafood dishes, especially with a sprinkle of salt.

The meal was well-paced and the chef handled things extremely well, even as the counter began to fill up half way through our meal. The dining room looks tight but was actually very comfortable, and I loved that old-school, small shop vibe. As we finished up, chef asked whether we need anything additional. Couldn’t think of anything new, I went for a repeat of the tachuio while CYY went for the anago (sea eel). The anago came with a thicker batter and more crunchy – a bit small in size (just two small pieces) but tasted great. The miso soup with a sprinkle of sansho was an interesting touch too.

This is definitely on my list of restaurants I would recommend to others – I, myself, would want to come back next time when I am in town, especially if I want something casual and easy-going. After all I don’t think you can get anything better at this friendly price range.

When? February 17 2017
Where? Tempura Yoshikawa, Tominokoji, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto, Japan
天ぷら 吉川 京都市中京区富小路通り御池下ル

(Feb-ulous Kyoto Part 2 - check out the whole series here!)

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