Food: One of the most well regarded tempura establishments in Kyoto, Tempura Endo Yasaka will change everything you thought you knew about this popular Japanese dish. Unlike the chunky battered tempura at subpar Japanese chain restaurants that remind you of a meal at Long John Silver, the tempura at this joint is so light and crisp that you won’t feel uncomfortably full, even after 13 portions of deep fried morsels.
I opted for the “Aoi” lunch set, which included a tofu appetiser, the chef’s choice of 13 tempura pieces, which included corn that was crunchy and fresh, eggplant, shrimp, sea bream wrapped in shiso (perilla) leaf, mushroom stuffed with mince prawn, ayu – sweet fish with green vinegar sauce, and green bean – peixinhos da horta, a dish introduced to Japan by the Portuguese in the 17th century that was the precursor to tempura.
On the table were two types of salt – green tea salt and salt with ground rice, daikon and a small bowl tentsuya – tempura sauce. The chef, who prepared each item in front of me, explained which condiment worked best for each item as he served them.
A light and refreshing salad of pea sprouts and crispy sweet potato salad with plum dressing came after the main tempura items, then steamed white rice with kakiage – a mixed tempura fritter of diced root vegetable and minced shrimp with rice, pickles and miso soup. The meal ended with a desert of grapefruit granita.
Tempura Endo Yasaka was a surprising discovery that fried batter, rather than drown out the flavours of food, can in fact, when executed correctly, elevate and enhance the natural flavors of fresh, high quality ingredients.
Service: Impeccable. Even though the chef was the only one doing all the cooking for multiple guests, he was always serene, friendly and happy to explain what he was serving. Outside, young ladies dressed in blue kimonos wait to welcome and guide you to your seat and out of the restaurant when you’ve finished with your meal.
Ambience: Tempura Endo Yasaka is so popular that they occupied a few different sites on the same street – a tempura bar, a space with tatami mat rooms and another with private teahouse style table rooms. I dined at the tempura bar, which was bright, elegant and relaxing, with large windows and a view of a landscaped Japanese garden behind the open kitchen.
Average price per person: 4,000-8,000¥ for lunch; 10,000-15,000¥ for dinner. Prices exclude tax and service charge). Reservations are required.
Address: Tempura Endo Yasaka. 566 Komatsu-cho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto City, Japan 605-0811. Tel: (81) 75 551 1488.