Tempura Tsunahachi Honten, Shinjuku, Tokyo
Our first lunch after we arrived in Japan was at this tempura restaurant near Shinjuku station, the honten location, not the one in Keio.
Although we arrived only a few minutes after they opened, it was a national holiday and there was already a queue outside, continuing inside but it didn't take long before we were seated at the upstairs counter. (I'd asked for counter seating rather than in the dining room area).
We went for two set menus, the hira zen (1,260 Yen) and the tempura zen (1,995 Yen).
Both included miso soup, rice, green vegetable pickle and of course, daikon and dipping sauce. Both included tempura prawn, vegetables, white fish tails and shrimp kakiage. The tempura zen also came with tempura eel and an additional pickle.
Service was brisk, as was trade, with many customers who arrived after us also out before us. But it was also friendly, and we didn't feel rushed through our meal. I imagine the pace is slower in the evening...
My favourites were the individual tempura shrimp and the shrimp kakiage, though the eel was also good. Actually all of it was good! The batter was light and crispy without being greasy and everything was cooked perfectly. Having experienced tempura (in London) where either the filling or batter is over or undercooked in relation to the other, this is something I certainly appreciated.
One thing that confuses me greatly ... the romaji spelling for the name does seem to be "tsunahachi" as I've used it. But the URL for their own website spells it "tunahachi". Is this an alternative spelling? I can't imagine they made an error with their domain name registration, surely, so I'm wondering why the two spellings?
It's just different transliterations. In English, つ is more closely pronounced as "tsu" so that is the more common transliteration used by English speakers. But many Japanese will transliterate it as "tu" because it follows the same general pattern as most other Japanese syllabary.
a i u e o
ka ki ku ke ko
sa shi (sometimes transliterated as "si") su se so
ta chi (sometimes transliterated as "ti") tsu (or "tu") te to
To make it more confusing, there are two chains with very similar names.
The one you went to is called "Tempura Shinjuku Tsunahachi", while the other chain, with branches in Shibuya, Shinagawa and many other locations, is called "Tempura Tsunahachi" (without the "Shinjuku"). I don't know if that's related to the URL issue, but it might be.
re: Robb S
Oh gosh, how confusing!
On their website, the one I went to use only "Tempura Tsunahachi" as their name, and have four Tokyo locations, one Kyoto and one Sapporo.
I wonder if the two businesses are related, or whether the names are a coincidence, or whether the second to open deliberately copied the first?
I can't find the website for the other one, as searching on the name brings up the one I visited...