Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Weekday Japanese Lunch 2: Tempura Jiro

I couldn’t believe my luck when I managed to get a seat at Tempura Jiro at the last minute. Good tempura restaurants are few and far between in Hong Kong so I have been trying for months to make a booking for this new restaurant on Stanley Street. And I was pleasantly surprised when I saw a spot made available for their lunch service just a couple of days ahead of time. I didn’t hesitate to hit “Confirm” to make the reservation. 

The set up was typical of what I would expect from a tempura restaurant – behind the counter was the open kitchen with the deep-frying station and all and where the two chefs were working (including head chef Fukuda Jiro), and in front is an L-shared wooden table that can seat around 10 (there’s also a private room behind I believe). I do like this kind of minimalist, natural decor. 

There’s no menu per se – just the separate omakase menu for lunch and dinner services, and on the day I visited, I was offered two add-on options for some premium ingredients (abalone and sea urchins, specifically), both of which I politely declined as I don't believe I could take on a whole abalone on my own and uni/sea urchins was not exactly my favorite tempura ingredient. 

Condiments were brought to the table including the fancy selection of salts, sudachi and grated daikon in a bowl of dipping sauce – a bit overboard in my opinion but nothing wrong with it – while the first course of akami-zuke (marinated tuna) was introduced. I am surprised by the quality of the sashimi piece, coming from Kagoshima I was told, with nice firm texture.

Meanwhile the chefs working behind the counter were busy preparing the ingredients for the tempura courses. I started with the classic, the piece of prawn – first the head, and then the body in quick succession. Both were excellent – all that’s needed was a gentle dip of the salt to bring out the flavor. Next was Manganji Togarashi, the special, mildly-tasted green pepper coming from Kyoto which is available during spring and early summer, followed by the baby onions from Chiba Prefecture. Both were done with a slightly thicker batter, and I particularly enjoyed the juicy and subtly sweet baby onions with the dipping sauce and grated daikon. 

The piece of Kisu (whiting) was beautifully done, with the fillet and bones prepared separately – one could easily tell the difference of batter applied and cooking time for both pieces. Both were perfectly cooked and brought to the table immediately after they were lifted from the giant copper frying pan. A small bowl of chawanmushi (steamed egg custard) topped with gin-an sauce served as an intermission course, and then there were three more tempura courses. 

I found it interesting when the chef put in a piece of nori into the frying pan and once done, topped with a spoonful of ikura (salmon roes) and served with sudachi zest brushed on top. First time I tried this version and I love it with the interesting texture combination (the popping roes and the crispy nori sheet) and loaded with umami tastes. Second was a piece of Tachiuo (beltfish) fillet coming from a long piece and lastly, the piece of sweet potato cut into small chunks before battered and cooked – again, it’s perfectly cooked with a soft center, crispy crust and loaded with starch sweetness. 

Was offered a choice of three dishes to end my lunch with – I went with the tendon and despite its mini size, it was actually very tasty and fulfilling, with the neat patty mixed with chunks of prawns and vegetables, dipped in batter and deep-fried to the deep golden color. At first I was worried that the portion of the food may not be enough (and secretly planned on going for a bowl of roast goose noodles next door), but turned out it was just right. 

Not sure if I will get lucky again any time soon for a second booking, but when I do, I am definitely looking forward to going back for more. 

When? May 16 2022
Where? Tempura Jiro, Shop E, G/F World Trust Tower, 50 Stanley Street, Central
Menu Highlights? Kisu Tempura

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