Monday, May 5, 2008

Tenshin for Tempura

Tenshin lunch set tempura
My birthday treat was lunch at Tenshin. Dubbed the penultimate place for tempura in Singapore, Tenshin is also the only tempura specialist in town. Have been wanting to come here a long long time, even though I've seen mixed reviews. I just have to try, at least once, the legendary batter that's airily light. We took the Tempura Set (S$30) and the Tenshin Lunch (S$60) - see menu here.

Indeed the batter was light as air, and in some cases, barely there. So very delicate, maybe too delicate. Almost like eating nothing... and that in itself, was a problem. The meal was so light, it barely satisfied.

I think I enjoyed it more than hubby did. He much prefers our meal at Tsunahachi in Tokyo where you can feast on expertly done tempura for half the price. I do like the freshness of the items at Tenshin and how subtle and refined everything tasted. But I have to agree, the tempura on its own could be a little bland and underwhelming.

Four kinds of dipping salts
Fortunately, the dipping sauce is very flavourful and umami. In addition, there are four types of salt you can enjoy with your tempura - chili salt, seasalt, matcha salt, and curry salt. You can get quite busy experimenting with them and finish off your precious tempura cargo in a flash. Personally I liked the curry salt but thought the matcha one a little too opaque - it threatened to mask the delicate flavours of the tempura item.

Otoshi - marinated chye sim stems
But let's start from the beginning. After your orders are taken, the waitress serves you an appetiser (S$3), like the obligatory pickles you get in Chinese restaurants. However, I rejected mine outright since these were CHYE SIM STEMS - my most hated vegetable, and worst of all the stems! I can still eat the dark leafy bits but not the fibrous stems! Hubby enjoyed it though. He has no aversion to chye sim.

Salad with renkon chips
This is the salad that comes with all the sets. The familiar tangy Japanese soy-sesame dressing worked great with the greens but the renkon chips were a little too thin and overdone. We much much prefer the version that Wakashachiya serves.

Tenshin tempura set
Most sets come with 5-6 tempura items. This is really way too little. The S$30 tempura set (2 prawns, 1 whitefish, 3 vegetables) has different items from the S$60 set (2 prawns, 3 veges, shown here). One tiny gripe is that the prawns are so small (slim finger-sized). And a little limp, but that could have been due to the delay in eating it (hey, photography comes first!).

What is great is that they give you a palm-size dollop of cold, grated daikon to use as you see fit - either as palate cleanser on its own, or to put into your tempura dipping sauce.

The square plate is for putting your dipping salts, one type in each corner
Thoughtfully appropriate square dish for putting the four salts. I practically finished the whole plate. Too tasty to waste.

Steamed dish aka chawanmushi
The Tenshin lunch set comes with two additional items - steamed dish and tuna on rice. The steamed dish is chawanmushi. But this is no modest chawanmushi. It comes with a mini-comb of shark's fin and special thickened stock on top.

The "special tuna on rice" is a maguro don. But when I lifted the shiso leaf, to my surprise, the bottom row of fish pieces were no less than chutoro! Buttery delicious bites!

Top to bottom: houji-cha, red miso soup and pickles
All meals also come with rice, miso soup and pickles - certainly fillers, as the tempura alone would not suffice as a meal. The miso soup is of the red variety. Hubby did not like that but I found the flavour hearty and rustic. Plus bonus of baby nameko mushrooms!

The pickles are pretty, crunchy and delicious. You can ask for more portions (S$8 each, I read somewhere). Interestingly, houji-cha is served during main course and green tea during dessert.

Citrusy yuzu sorbet
Dessert is a simple but refreshingly citrusy sorbet (the waitress said mango but I think it's more like yuzu). You can taste the light bitterness of the rind. And there is this delightful fizzy aftertaste on your tongue. Very effective palate cleanser.

You can sit at the counter to watch the chefs in action
You can choose to sit at the counter and watch the chefs in action but being the shy sort, we sat at a table. The place is really small, though. I don't think it seats more than forty.

Tenshin signage
So in essence, Tenshin rings true about quality and execution but still does not deliver enough wow factor for what they charge. I wouldn't mind coming back to taste again the Tempura set, this time sans camera, so that I can see what it's like freshly served. I might even try the counter seat - I hear the chef serves you one piece at a time, only when you have finished each piece.

It was a very light lunch on the whole. Hubby said we'd be hungry again two hours later. He was wrong. We were hungry just ten minutes out the door!

Level 3, The Regent Singapore
1 Cuscaden Road
Tel: 6735-4588


  1. So you finally went. :) You really should have sat at the counter. *can get special treatment keke*, plus the tempura comes by piece. I go during the July-Aug period when the Jap tomorokoshi corn is in season. It's really sweet in tempura batter.

    Try the mini kai next time. Tenshin is under the Shiraishi group so the sashimi is real fresh and of premium varieties. I love the whole anago that comes with the set.

    Oh! I should think the correct way of eating oroshi is not to put them into the dipping sauce! >.< keke.

    Tenshin is Tempura!

  2. your pics with the 400D are fantastic! are you using the 18-55 mm kit lens?

  3. Happy birthday. Mine is next hehe. ;) That was a lovely meal.

  4. I remember getting hungry fast after my lunch there too. And yes, the same board ups of Basilico was there when I visited too. Seems like those guys are taking their time.

    Happy belated birtday. :)

  5. Hajimemashite, Y-maeda-san. Sumimasen, blog wa yomenai!


    Ice: I know some people like sitting at the counter, chatting up the chef, building rapport and getting special treatment along the way but that is not my style.

    Right way or wrong way to enjoy oroshi? Personally I do not like daikon in my tentsuyu as I find it muddies the taste of the dipping sauce, but I know many people who LOVE it that way. So who am I to impose my opinions? Let people enjoy what they like.

    And yes, everybody knows Tenshin is sister restaurant to Shiraishi. But like you said, Tenshin is tempura. That was all I could afford.


    Nic: haha, thanks, I am still learning! It was very dim lit, that restaurant. Yes, I am using the 18-55mm lens but an upgraded one (with Image Stabiliser).


    D: Thank you, so sweet of you!


    Singairishgirl: Oh, wonderful! Hope you have a great birthday too!


    Liquidshadow: Wow, that is really quite some time ago - I hope Basilico turns out to be a good place. Yeah, we got hungry real fast after Tenshin. Thank you for the birthday wishes!

  6. i want to go! i want to go! hehe..

    so, put down list of places to go.
    photos are getting nicer every day. making the food more and more tempting!

  7. agree with k-man, photos are getting better!

  8. really really expensive. ha!

  9. your food descriptions... explosive, sounds/reads as scrumptuous as the dishes taste themselves.... join you soon, again to add a "photo op" for u, extra person, extra dish, extra photos, ritey? :p Jac

  10. K-man: I want to go again too, but this time to eat the tempura while it's hot!

    Southernoise: haa, thanks too!

    LIC: yes

    Hi Jac! Yeah, join us for more makan! If you don't mind us delaying the meal with the photoshoot, that is!

  11. This may come a bit late but still...Happy belated birthday! I probably wouldn't have been happy at Tenshin judging by the 'lightness' of the meal! :P

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