One of the more popular dishes that has spread from Japan into the world globally is Tempura, but whilst you get “tempura” in Hong Kong – the more authentic form of tempura is a completely different experience – and whilst there are many “local only” places in Kyoto because of the traditional nature of the city – Tempura Endo Yasaka is one of the higher rated ones who also welcome visitors.
The restaurant is actually split across several blocks on the same street and when we got there – we were guided to another part of the restaurant further down the road. Just looking around the street – it was packed with restaurants that looked more like private paradises for the locals.
When we arrived at the right building, we were seated at the bench seat in front of the friendly and amazing chef himself – in front of him was a massive copper fryer which is a typical essential at a traditional tempura store.
Table setting was done and we went for the Omasake course (set menu) – I went for some sake as well. With the table setting, you get green tea salt and also regular salt with a lemon as well. The Sake came in an amazing looking holder – love it!
To start off the meal, we were provided with a small tofu dish which had a light soy flavor to cleanse the pallet.
The next that came was sashimi – and even though the restaurant was known for the tempura, the fish was excellent! Just a dash of wasabi with a light soy sauce made it perfect.
The first tempura dish was fresh corn tempura – to spot great tempura, you need to make sure that the paper the food is placed does not show any (or much) of oil stain at all – and this certainly was excellently done. The sweetness of the corn compliments the salt perfectly.
The next dish was in my opinion one of my favourites of the night – simply put, it was extremely fresh and creamy sea urchin wrapped with seaweed – making it into a tempura added a slight crispiness to the seaweed whilst the natural salt in the seaweed complimented the sea urchin perfectly as it melted in your mouth.
Follow dish was more to Ms. Buddha’s taste in that she loves scallops and the preparation method was the same as the urchin – the texture was a little firmer – but the great thing is that the scallops were incredibly sweet given the freshness.
Next up was prawns – what was slightly different is that the head was also fried – for those who intend to consume the head (our neighbor didn’t and I was tempted to offer my service to have his) – make sure you leave them till last, because the head alone was ranked 2nd best to me.
Because I knew the head was going to be amazing – and wanted to save it, I left it to the point that the chef had already cooked the next dish – which were bamboo shoots – for those who hadn’t tried it before – bamboo shoots have a very tamed flavor – and the key is the texture which is very crisp – absolutely a delightful light taste.
Next up were pea pods – the amazing thing about the peas weren’t the taste, but the fact that the pods actually contained mashed peas inside – and the paste added a sweet flavor that contrasted with the shell perfectly.
Drink Break – Ms. Buddha did the Japanese thing and poured this for me – pure love!
I’m glad I had the drink to cleanse my pallet, because what came next was by far my top dish of the night – it was shitake tempura – and the flavor of the shitake mushroom was beyond any truffle or mushroom I’ve ever tasted – the flavor is indescribable and was just pure bliss.
The next few that came were excellent – but weren’t “blow your mind” in my opinion – they were a series of agadashi tofu, fish, and vegetable – although the broccoli (one of my favourite vegetables) I loved because I always think the little leaves of the broccoli does wonders in soaking up the oil!
Once thing that people have to know about Japan is that the staple (rice) normally comes at the conclusion of the meal – and normally the rice tends to be something simple – to me, it reminds me of the fact that even though you’ve experienced so many luxury dishes prior – at the end – a perfect bowl of rice is still the most satisfying thing…perfect
For desserts – there was a small cup of shaved ice too cool you down and fittingly to the restaurant – also a pair of fried mochi balls.
Kyoto has a reputation as being one of the most secretive and traditional places in Japan, and it is true – there are a lot of restaurant which are not accessible by foreigners (even if you speak Japanese) – but just because of that, it doesn’t mean that a truly excellent meal experience cannot be had – and Ms. Buddha and I walked out with just pure bliss on our face!