Tempura is the sort of dish that, when cooked right, becomes both an indulgence and a source of comfort for some lucky diner. The prawns and veg (or any other seafood, for that matter) have to be coated in just the right amount of batter; the battered food has to be deep-fried in proper oil and heated to the correct temperature; and the cooked tempura needs to be drained well and served immediately so as not to lose both crispness and savour. A rather fiddly thing when you think about it, but the end results are more than satisfying.
That said, Tempura Tendon Tenya, a stalwart of Tokyo’s Asakusa District, has finally made its way to the Philippines and has been cheerfully giving other tempura-flogging establishments a run for their money. Here, for P 300 and under, you can grab a tendon (tempura on a bowl of rice with tentsuyu drizzled over it) with distinctly crunchy, savoury fritters that contrast nicely with the soft, chewy rice. The classic tendon shown above features ebi (prawn), kisu (silver-banded whiting fillet), sweet potato, and green beans all of which have been covered modestly in a batter that stays crunchy till the final bite. The seafood was tender to the bite and just lightly seasoned so as not to detract from the natural sweetness, while the green beans were crisp and tasted fresh; the sweet potato was, well, pretty good for a sweet potato.
For those of you who want something a bit on the wild side – just a bit, by the way – there is the buta kimuchi tendon (not pictured, alas; my dining companion at the time dug right into her meal before I could ask to snap a photo of it) which features thin, tempura-fried slices of pork belly topped with a dollop of shredded kimchi. It’s a rather tasty dish – think tonkatsu with a crunchier coat – but rather difficult to eat because the pork belly isn’t cut into manageable strips for serving.
All tendon meals come with miso soup and noodle fanciers will be pleased to know that you can have soba or udon set meals if rice isn’t your thing. Since the tendon bowls are very lightly dressed with tentsuyu, there is a jar of the sweet sauce at every table for sauce-fanciers along with a bottle of fiery and fragrant shichimi togarashi to sprinkle over for some kick, and a jar of tsukemono (Japanese pickles) for a tart and crisp contrast. (The fact that the pickles are nasu-tsukemono – eggplant – is extra plus-points for me.) Also, for die-hard tempura junkies, you can also order your favourite kinds a’la carte or by the basket.
One caveat, though: the place tends to get loud at times so while Tenya is great for lunches and dinners with the gang, this may not exactly be a good choice for business meetings or intimate meals with one’s partner.
Tempura Tendon Tenya: 2nd Floor – Bonifacio Stopover, 32nd St. cor. 2nd Ave, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig (with another branch in Ortigas at SM Megamall)