Thursday, October 10, 2019

Returning To An Old Favorite

I felt obliged to go back to Tempura Fukamachi to eat this time - it's been one of my favorite restaurants in Tokyo (back when I came more regularly) and I wanted to show CYY what the fuss is about this small restaurant at the back alley not far from Ginza. So I asked the hotel concierge to make the booking for us once our Japan itinerary was confirmed.

We arrived right on time after a quick ride on metro across town from Roppongi into Kyobashi station, and the restaurant was just a block away. The place was full, expectedly given it's one of the highest-rated in local dining guide, but I am surprised to see most of the customers being westerners with only a handful locals seated at one side of the counter.

Chef-owner Masao Fukamachi opened this restaurant almost 20 years ago and since then he has passed the torch to his two sons and he himself took a back seat assisting. This evening it's his younger son, Chef Sumio working behind the counter with the father taking up the sous-chef role and assisting. Other than that, nothing much has changed with the exact same interior and menu as my last visit a few years back. We began with the creamy nama-yuba served with a gravy-like soy sauce and a dab of wasabi, while chef began preparing the ingredients for the tempura courses.

The first two courses were considered delicacies in Japanese cuisine. Kuchiko, or dried sea cucumber roes, tasted like a milder version of bottarga with a softer texture. It's dipped in the thick batter and deep-fried in the pot. Felt like it’s perfect with a glass of beer. Next was abalone, coated with a slightly thinner batter, again deep-fried and served with the liver sauce. The abalone was steamed with sake before so it has a soft, tender texture and a hint of sweetness, working well with the rich and thick dipping sauce.

Two pieces of kurama ebi (giant prawns) were served in quick succession - first the head fried golden crisp without batter, followed by the two "bodies". Both were perfectly done and the meat has an amazing sweet umami flavor. Young ginkgos - came right into season in early fall with a tint of green color - were put on a bamboo skewer before putting on the slightest of batter. I love that hint of bitterness in the core.

Chestnut was another seasonal item apart from ginkgos, and we were fascinated by how it's prepared. First, the battered piece went through the first dip into oil at lower temperature (and stayed for slightly longer), then it's quickly cooled before going on a second dip briefly, this time in a hotter pot of oil. So what we had was the piece with soft (and sweet) center and super crispy crust.

Kisu (whiting) and Megochi (flathead) were another two fish courses served this evening. Kisu was in pretty good size with clean flavor and delicate texture - just needed a small dab of salt. Meanwhile, the megochi has a similar clean flavor but firmer and with a thinner batter. Both were just as good. Later on, baby ayu (sweetfish) was served (around 4-inch long) with the subtle bitter flavor which was its signature taste.

We both thought the uni tempura was our favorite of the night and probably the most memorable thing we have eaten during this trip. A piece of giant oba leaf was filled with Hokkaido bafun uni and folded into a pocket, dipped in the batter and deep-fried. Every bite-ful was burst with the unique flavor from the sea urchins but left with a subtle refreshing aftertaste from the oba leaf.

Three more pieces of vegetables were served and I thought they were all outstanding. Lotus root was cut thick with a crunchy texture; shiitake mushroom was one tricky to do with slightly moist texture but it's done brilliantly with the crisp batter; and the head of asparagus was coated with slightly more batter than the stalk, providing the perfect balance overall.

Anago (saltwater eel) was deep-fried to golden color and served by chef cutting the piece into half using chopsticks in front of us – while not the crispiest I have had but I thought this one was done perfectly.

I opted for ten-don as my final savory course and we finished with a simple dessert of peach and grape jelly. Didn’t seem to be a lot of food at first, but we were completely stuffed and happy.

When? September 27 2019
Where? Tempura Fukamachi, Ground Floor, Kyobashi 2-5-2, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
てんぷら 深町 東京都中央区京橋2-5-2 A・M京橋ビル 1F
Menu Highlights? Uni Tempura

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