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Tempura Master

Tenmatsu Restaurant Nihonbashi Oct. 7, 2014

"I'd really like some tempura for dinner tonight," Alan requested before rolling over to his side to nap. We were tired from walking and sight-seeing all day so we went back to the hotel to get some rest. While he dozed off, I found a raving review about Tenmatsu, a great tempura restaurant nearby.

The directions were also helpful. We took the subway to Nihonbashi and found it without a hitch.

Tenmatsu, a tempura restaurant in Nihonbashi.

There were no individual tables in the restaurant. All it had was a long sushi counter. And one chef.

The different tempura dipping sauces include lemon and salt, broth with grated radish, and plum sauce.

While enjoying Kikuhime sake, we watched solo chef Tatsuya Onizuka work his magic behind the counter.

He effortlessly used his thumbs to break the head off the live shrimp and then toss them into a plastic container. Sometimes the shrimp, even without its head, would squiggle and jump off the chopping board. Then he would just casually pick it up, put it back on his chopping board, and carry on with his cooking preparations. Like it was nothing. I wish I caught it all on video.

Here's a video showing chef removing

the heads off live shrimp.

We ordered the set tempura dinner.  The first course were the shrimp heads deep-fried to a crispy consistency. There were three choices for dipping sauce: salt and lemon, tempura sauce (broth with grated radish), and plum sauce. Any which way brought out good flavor.

Next was the rest of the shrimp that he had butterflied, lightly battered, and deep-fried. Very tasty!

Shrimp tempura

Then he started laying out these string-like seafood on a plate. I asked him, "Are wa nan desu ka?" (What is that?)

At first I didn't understand what he said but he actually replied, "Bone!" The restaurant manager explained that it was eel spine.

The anago eel and its spine.

"Ah, unagi!" I said, talking about the only Japanese eel I know...until now.

But Chef Tatsuya corrected me, "No. Anago."

Here's the difference:  Unagi is freshwater eel while anago is saltwater eel.  Anago is usually simmered or deep-fried like in this case. Unagi, on the other hand, is usually barbecued.

He tied the eel spine into a knot and then deep-fried it. Just as with everything, it was very crispy, crunchy, and delicious!

Eel spine, anyone?

After serving us scallops and fish, chef brought us a basketful of fresh vegetables to choose from. I picked the lotus root and the asparagus. Again, delish!

The basket of fresh vegetables included asparagus, mushrooms, and lotus.
Lotus root tempura

I was taking pictures of everything and the couple sitting to our left started to make fun of me. They had no idea I was planning on writing about it and sharing my experience. I didn't care. I was having fun!

I loved my tempura meal!

It was great to experience authentic tempura dining and Alan was very happy about the excellent restaurant choice. Thanks, Chef! You're the tempura master!

Tenmatsu Chef Tatsuya Onizuka, the tempura master.

This story was continued from The Eight-Sided Keep. More stories to follow about my Japan adventure.

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