Tempura restaurants in Tokyo
I was wondering if anyone here has been to and can comment on their experiences at some of the tempura restaurants in Tokyo. I know there are three 2-star tempura restaurants in the Michelin guide, but the one I was most interested in, Raku-tei, will be closed during my visit.
Would it be worth trying the other starred tempura restaurants or are some of the other ones (I recall a chain in Roppongi HIlls) almost as good?
Kondo is excellent, especially for his vegetables. Really outstanding tempura. I think the chain you're referring to in Roppongi Hills is actually a branch of Mikawa. I haven't been to that one, but the honten was pretty damn good as well. I'd say Mikawa's seafood was probably about the same level as Kondo (more variety than Kondo iirc), but Kondo-san's vegetable tempuras set him apart.
To add : after have tried Yotaro and Mikawa in Monzen Nakacho, my inclination is for Mikawa for his ebi(shrimp) tempura grilled on the outside and just perfect medium rare on the inside. The master Saotome use the content of water of each one, calculates and gives a perfect moisture to tempura...
I would put Kondo at the top of your list, but it is expensive.
For an affordable lunch, Tenmatsu, with branches at Nihonbashi and Shibuya, does a great set lunch. Diners sit at the counter and the tempura is brought to you piece by piece. One of the best tempura bargains in the city.
For really cheap, but passable tempura, Tenya, with branches throughout the city, is a bargain. The basic tendon bowl goes for 600 JPY with shrimp and vegetables.
I haven't been to any, but I'm hoping someone here can give me some info on Rakutei. I live about a 1min walk away and I've never tried it.
I can tell you, however, that it always smells amazing.
I walk home at night and suck down huge whiffs of tempura-tinged air and smile. It always makes me hungry!
re: lost squirrel
The food was good at Rakutei, but the atmosphere was rather funereal. I prefer to enjoy myself when I eat out. Also, the grim, unsmiling chef and his unhappy-looking assistant rather noisily washed up the grill and pans while we were finishing our meal.
Maybe it's just me, but I think when we've just paid $600 for dinner you can wait until we leave before you start scrubbing your kitchen.
There's also Tsunahachi chains around which, while not Kondo, are a passable, cheaper alternative.
I had a great palate cleanser the last time I was there. A thin slice of cherry tomato in orange juice/sparkling grape juice. It was actually one of the things I most remember about Tsunahachi Rin. (not to take away from the tempura)
I second (third?) this one, but it's the only high end place I've been to. The course was Y13k, but the menu just said 'from Y10k' and it wasn't until the bill that we discovered the actual price. Pretty much worth it, esp. with BYO wine policy. But definitely need to book.
However, I'm chiming in mostly to point out that Mikawa opened another store on a really obscure street on the west side of Monzennakacho (15 minutes walk / 1 station away) and the master from Kayabacho is always working at that one these days. I go by on the way home from work and can see him through the window.