Friday, October 3, 2014

Visiting an old tempura house in Hong Kong

Ten Yoshi was one of the handful Japanese restaurants in town that specialized in tempura - in fact they were probably one of the first that are truly worth mentioning. A few friends were talking about that on our whatsapp group and decided to have lunch there on one weekday afternoon.

It's been a while since I last visited here but the decor looked the same - with an L-shaped counter in front of the open kitchen with 2 deep-frying stations - and it's the same Japanese chef and his assistant manning them. Behind the counter there were a few tables - but trust me, if it's tempura that you are after, insist on having the seats at the counter instead. Even though they specialized in tempura, they ran a more extensive menu than deep-fried pieces of seafood and vegetables. For lunch, they offered anything from sushi, sashimi or other rice bowl items such as unadon (rice with grilled eel) from the kitchen of the sushi restaurant by the same owner just one level up the building.

For ultimate tempura experience, the 16-piece lunch set seem to be the no-brainer choice, even though I did wonder whether it's a bit daunting to have such a heavy lunch like that. But at the end, I just couldn't resist and started picking my choices from the little order sheet listing all the options available for the day. I began with a few small bowls of appetizers and chawanmushi - steamed egg custard served in a teacup, when the chef began to prepare the tempura courses and passed to the tray in front of me in turns once they were ready.

Ebi (Shrimps) x 2, Hotate (Scallop)

Kabocha (pumpkin), Megochi (Flathead), Haze (Goby)
The chef didn't follow any particular order to serve - it started with the 2 pieces of shrimps and scallop and ended with zuwaigani-tsume (snowcrab claw), and in between, I had a series of mostly seafood and some vegetable pieces, some all-season choices and some daily special items based on seasonal ingredients.

2 x Awabi (Abalone), Kisu (Whiting), Minced Shrimp

Uni (Sea Urchin), Mantis Shrimp (Shako), Anago (eel)

Surf Clam (Torigai), Maitake Mushroom, Snowcrab Claw
In general I think the batter was on the lighter and thinner side, but the food came out crisply cooked with evenly coated batter with good control of oil temperature. On the side I was given a bowl of sauce with grated daikon, but I felt like a dip of salt was all that needed for most of the pieces, especially with such thin batter the sauce would have made it too soggy. The set also came with a bowl of rice with pickled vegetables.

It's hard to pick out my favorites, as all of them came out quite decent (except the nori-wrapped uni which I think was a bit overcooked), but I particularly enjoyed the few pieces of small fish fillet - kisu (whiting), megochi (flathead) and haze (goby) - items that I could only encounter in an authentic tempura restaurant. I also liked the surf clam (Torigai) that came towards the end - it had a fresh flavor and a good crunchy/chewy texture. Yes, 16 pieces all together may be a bit much for some, but I was glad that I had my tempura craving satisfied.

Well, it's a bit silly to compare this to the top ones in Tokyo, but in between my Japan trips (which unfortunately came few and far between these days), this might be as good as I could get.

When? September 24 2014
Where? Ten Yoshi, 9/F Henry House, 42 Yun Ping Road, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Kisu, Megochi and Haze Tempura

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