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Best Tempura in town??

Tempura is, in many ways, an archetypal Japanese food. All the essential qualities of Japanese cuisine are reflected in its preparation: the use of absolutely fresh ingredients, the artful presentation, and the perfection of technique by a skilled chef who uses the right blend of sesame oil heated to precise temperature. The result is one of the triumphs of Japanese cooking - a fried food that is light and fresh-tasting rather than heavy and greasy. It's a cooking style in which the essence of the ingredient itself completely defines the taste.

Whilst plenty of discussions on this board have been focused on GTA's best Sushi/Sashimi and Ramen noodles. Little attention has been given to 'Tempura'.

With so many new Izakayas opened in the past year and coupled with existing, well established Japanese restaurants, where in your opinion deliver the best and freshest, light and 'thinly battered' products in town?!

( However, identifying outfits that churned out pathetically thick, doughy and greasy products are relatively easy!!....and there are a lot!! Ha!! )

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  1. I would say Bushi Udon Kappo. Ema Tei is also decent.

    It's still kind of obviously not Japan standard though.

    Funny enough I find a lot of Portuguese restaurants' fried items similar to a certain style you'd get in Japan. A lot closer to it than even Japanese restaurants here but not done in sesame oil and without the sauce.

    8 Replies
    1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

      Do you think it is just decent, or very good?

      1. re: justsayn

        I love both places and would say that they are great.

        However, if you're looking for Tempura that is of say, 7Chome Kyoboshi caliber then I would say that there is nothing like that here.

        For Toronto, I feel like Bushi Udon Kappo and Ema Tei are sort of the tops but I also feel that places like Ichiriki, and Zen don't do bad jobs either.

        I think ultimately Bushi Udon Kappo is tops for me for freshness, and ingredient variety, (things like Okra, Ika with Nori, and a great Kakiage) sort of put them above the others.

        1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

          That's great! Thanks! Glad Charles posted this.

          1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

            i agree about bushi udon kappo -- probably the best tempura i've had in awhile.

            recently had dinner at the soba popup in ichiriki on bloor & church -- they have a buckwheat tempura on the menu that i'd like to try. it certainly looked different than normal tempura.

          1. re: mrsleny

            Fascinating fact. Never knew this.
            "Many specialty shops still use sesame oil or tea seed oil, and it is thought certain compounds in these oils help to produce light, crispier batter...". So I assume this has to be done in a frying pan with the oil changed frequently, instead of a deep fryer. Any restaurant carries that practice that has my full respect.

            1. re: mrsleny

              Yes, I was getting at that. But thanks for the links for those that don't know.

          2. I have always liked Yuzu no Hana and echo Ematei.
            Daio and Ichiriki are both old favorites - but it's been years since I last visited.

            1 Reply
            1. re: happycamper

              Tried Yuzu tempura and it was tasty but soft with little crispiness.

              TBS, the sushi meal was outstanding. Definitely not traditional in my experience, but the freshness and creativity were quite noteworthy. Using saved toasted garlic and blow torch partial cooking / surface caramelization made for some really tasty bites !! Of particular note was the scorched scallop sushi, mind blowing good.

              Service was also outstanding.

            2. Thanks for the feedback!! I'll give Bushi Udon Kappo a try if I'm in that vicinity!

              1 Reply
              1. re: Charles Yu

                Now I have another reason to try Bushi Udon Kappo. I haven't ordered tempura in Toronto in years because it has generally been so disappointing. With the influx of Japanese places in the past few years, it would be cool to see someone open up a tempura bar too.

              2. Checked out Bushi Udon today... unfortunately not special at all!

                Ematei's tempura is far superior :)

                2 Replies
                1. re: JonasBrand

                  Agree!!! At $2 a piece, the shrimp is small, greasy and thickly battered!! Only 2 tables at lunch time!! Wonder how long they will survive?

                  1. re: JonasBrand

                    Finally tried Soba Tuesday. I thought their tempura was excellent, not greasy and thinly battered. The mixed tempura that came with the ten soba included shrimp, fish, and assorted veggies. I liked the seasoned salt that accompanied the tempura. I don't know if it was fluke the one time I tried, but it was quite good tempura by Toronto standards.

                  2. Wow. No consensus on one decent Tempura in the city ? Just scratched BU off my to do list...

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: PoppiYYZ

                      Or you could just go try it for yourself and make up your own mind about it.

                      The Udon isn't bad either and also the only place making it by hand so even if you don't like the Tempura it won't be a total loss.

                      Unless you hate Udon.

                      Then it would be a total loss.

                      1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

                        Personally, I found the udon super al-dente. However, the broth was kind of weak and not too flavourful.

                        1. re: Charles Yu

                          I find the Udon to be fine to me. I've never had it Al Dente to the point of being unpalatable there. I find most Udon Broth's in the world to be weak and not too flavourful so when I'm at Bushi (or anywhere) I usually try to get their Curry Udon.

                          Tempura wise, I've never had greasy or thickly battered tempura at Bushi. It's always been thinly battered, fresh, and not greasy.

                          I haven't had the shrimp there before as I usually go for their more exotic tempura offerings. I find if anything Ematei's shrimp to be heavier in batter. I feel like I'm biting into a rice crispy square there sometimes.

                          In other news, I had an incredible Kakiage last night at Kingyo.

                          1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

                            Thanks NPIG. Good to know about the Kingyo's Kakiage. Going there Monday! Any more 'must have' dishes we should order? Heard the spicy ramen is a killer.

                            1. re: Charles Yu

                              The Tan Tan Men is good there. Really, most everything is good there. They have a crab leg special on right now that was pretty popular.

                              The chefs there are pretty competent. Ex Kaji + Kingyo Vancouver etc.

                              I think my favourite item there is the Shojin Bento Box. It's a Shojin Ryori style bento that they only make 15 of per day. It's fairly meticulously prepared. A bit beyond standard Izakaya fare.