An Evening at Tempura Endo, Kyoto, Japan

Tempura Endo is an upscale tempura restaurant where a seat at the bar gets you a front row view of the tempura master in action. However, this sounds more exciting than it really is. Only a few seats are directly in front of the tempura master. We were on the end and there is a large copper back to the deep fryer that hides most of what he does. All the pieces are prepped ahead of time so there isn’t much knife work either. Occasionally he will cut something after it comes out of the deep fryer but mostly not.

Each piece is carefully prepared and individually presented to each diner with instructions (in English for western guests) on which kind of salt, white or green tea, or if sauce, tempura or lemon, would be appropriate.

When we booked our reservation just two days ahead for a Wednesday evening in October we ordered the basic Rukuhara meal. Steep at 10,000 yen a person, this is not a casual night out. This was the tempura-only option without the additional frills of a sashimi bowl and so forth. Watching some of the other diners the more expensive options may get you more tempura too. The basic meal, however, was plenty of food.

The culinary journey started with a peanut tofu. Served in a broth it was much more flavorful than many tofu dishes we’ve tasted.

The first tempura taste was their signature dish, a slice off a fresh ear of corn. Coated in a light tempura batter the corn was sweet and barely cooked. Each subsequent course was a delight both visually and on the palate.

Shrimp toast followed by:

After the last tempura you are given a choice of rice dishes – tendon, shrimp tempura on rice; tencha, tempura on rice with hot tea poured over it and a couple other dishes similar in nature, along with a dark brewed miso soup and pickles – all the same excellent quality as the tempura.

Dessert was a lovely grapefruit granite that was full of flavor and not too sweet.

Around 8PM an elderly Japanese gentleman walked in with a real live geisha in full makeup – white face, ruby lips, pink around the eyes, hair lacquered in the traditional do. She ate and drank with delicate grace paying careful attention to her escort’s every word. Fascinated I couldn’t help but watch. Thankfully she was seated in the same direction from me as the tempura master. There is also a window behind the bar that reflects the scene so you can discretely watch the other diners.

For the same great experience at a fraction of the cost try the lunch menu.

October 4, 2017

For links to all the posts in this series see the Japan page.