Wednesday, July 1, 2015
Keisuke the Ramen King Opens Ginza Tendon Itsuki (Tempura Donburi)!
A good bowl of tendon (tempura donburi or tempura rice bowl) can be so satisfying. That crisp batter light as air, glistening with sweetly savoury sauce...wrapped around juicy vegetables and seafood atop a bed of pearly rice - mmmmh!
It doesn't even have to be fancy. I remember one cold and hungry evening in Tokyo when I was rescued by Tenya, that tendon chain. It was simple, cheap and surprisingly not bad. It made me wish that good tendon was more widely available in Singapore.
But it looks like I'm not the only one who feels the that way. The Ramen Keisuke chain saw a niche opportunity in this, and is launching tomorrow (2 July 2015) a tendon specialist shop - Ginza Tendon Itsuki!
The Ramen King going into tempura donburi? Well, they created Ginza Tendon Itsuki in collaboration with Ginza Itsuki Sushi restaurant in Tokyo, Japan, tapping on their expertise. Keisuke Takeda’s childhood friend Naoki Takaku is chef-owner of Ginza Itsuki Sushi.
This is certainly much more classy than Tenya, but prices aren't too much higher. The menu is simple; there are just two dishes. The Special Tendon (Tempura Rice Bowl, S$13.90) has shrimp and chicken in addition to vegetables. I was surprised to find two large strips of chicken tempura in there, but I guess fish would drive the price up. The Vegetable Tendon (Vegetable Tempura Rice Bowl, S$12.90) is a great option for vegetarians. Both are sets that come with miso soup and a lovely chawanmushi. You'll also get freeflow cabbage pickles.
The secret to good tempura is not so much the ingredients, but the art of frying and the right temperature. They have two fryers - one at 165 deg C for vegetables, and one at 175 deg C for meat and seafood. The produce is sourced locally or nearby countries.
However, Tendon Ginza Itsuki uses a higher grade flour from Japan to achieve better texture. The rice is from Hokkaido, and known to yield a firmer bite. They also cook it with less water. I think that's smart, because the last thing you want in your tendon is overly steamy rice making your tempura soggy.
Here's Keisuke-san himself plating the bowl.
I liked how the batter was light and non-greasy, and how the vegetable items like the baby corn still retained a juicy crunch. The chicken was moist and shrimp suitably juicy.
I am told that in Japan, people consider tempura healthy if it's expertly done. The flash frying at the right temperature and timing cooks the food without loading it with grease, and the batter protects the nutrients from damage.
Speaking of bowls, these porcelain beauties are by Arita, a 400-year old brand from Japan. They are specially designed with a thick and heavy base. This helps heat retention, so that by the time you get to the bottom of the bowl, the rice is still warm. How thoughtful!
There's a nod to local tastebuds here - a deep-fried egg that has a rich, runny yolk bursting from within (sorry I already scooped a bite of that before I took this photo). Oh, they don't do this egg addition in Japan. But I'm betting most locals will love it.
There's no dipping sauce here, the tendon sauce alone suffices for both tempura and rice. Add some chili flakes if you like.
Your rice doesn't come out of a crude, large-scale commercial cooker either. They have four of these high-end rice cookers, so that they can better control the texture and consistency of the rice.
Well, they can still manage to do this since it's a small restaurant, seating only 24 at a time (14 at the counter, and 10 at tables). I also saw the staff measure out the rice and weigh it on a scale. Nothing is left to chance here.
For all the care and effort put into the donburi, I'd say it's really value for money. I only hope the inevitable queues move quickly, because I'd certainly want to come back again.
I'm very pleased to hear that the Ramen Keisuke chain is doing so well and expanding, when so many restaurants are struggling. Ginza Tendon Itsuki is the 8th concept, and it's not stopping there. Keisuke-san now has several other concepts (Keisuke Tori King, Keisuke Gyoza King and Takeda Shouten Sake Bar) at Tanjong Pagar alone, forming a Keisuke "Yokochou" (横丁) or soul food alley. They are also looking to expand beyond Japan and Singapore. I hear Perth might be a consideration!
Look out also for his first local flavour ramen - the "Laksa Ramen Special" in August celebrating SG50. Proceeds will be donated to the Tanjong Pagar community and the underprivileged.
GINZA TENDON ITSUKI
101 Tanjong Pagar Road Singapore 088522
Open daily from 2 July 2015:
11:30am - 2:30pm | 5:30pm - 22:00pm
NOTE: Payment is by cash only. No credit cards
Many thanks to Keisuke-san, Hideki and team for the invitation to preview the restaurant just prior to opening.
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