(SPOT.ph) We’ve sung the praises of Japanese food before, and can you really blame us? There’s so much to say about it because of all the options you’re presented with, from sushi and sashimi to rice bowls to all things deep-fried. With that range of flavors and textures, what you end up having just depends on your mood—and right now, we’re thinking about ebi tempura.
It’s a simple enough treat, but it’s always the things that look effortless that actually have a lot more going for them than one might realize. So, the following contenders are ranked according to crunch, prawn/shrimp quality, texture (the extra crispy bits are important!), and overall flavor (including the accompanying sauce, whether it’s dashi or something else entirely). There’s a bonus point for whether or not you can eat the tail—it’s a good indicator of how well the prawn itself was fried.
All SPOT.ph Top 10 lists are researched, paid for, tested, and selected by the writers and editors. They are discreetly conducted without any notice made to the restaurants or their owners.
Here are the 10 best ebi tempura in Metro Manila right now:
10. Ebi Tempura from Komoro Japanese Dining (P42/piece)
Established in 1992, Komoro was many a young millennial’s first exposure to Japanese cuisine—so it’s nice to know they’ve held up after all these years. As proven by chef David Chang’s Netflix series Ugly Delicious, food can be incredible without being remotely ‘grammable, and that’s okay! The crunch at Komoro Soba is real, the dashi just right, and the atmosphere casual—what more could you want?
While it’s not as much of a go-to today as it was in the days of yesteryear, Komoro Soba’s take on tempura can still satisfy that craving, especially if you get it fried fresh.
Komoro Soba is at G/F SM Megamall, EDSA corner Doña Julia Vargas Avenue, Mandaluyong City.
9. Ebi Tempura from Kenji Tei (P295/three pieces)
Kenji Tei’s reputation precedes it, and you can tell by the number of people who dine there even after the normal lunch hours. Their take on the dish generally lives up to the promise of ebi tempura—crunchy, giving way to tender seafood, with lots of extra bits of fried batter. However, it can get slightly oily when they’re not careful, and the accompanying dipping sauce can end up tasting a little too subtle as a result—still, people clearly frequent this place for a reason.
Kenji Tei gets points for good flavor and great texture, and overall, if this is where you set the bar for the famous fried food, you wouldn’t be in the wrong.
See a list of Kenji Tei branches.
8. Wild Tiger Prawn Tempura from Tendon Kohaku (P300/five pieces)
This one’s not quite as crunchy as we typically expect of ebi tempura, with the batter being more the texture of popcorn than anything with a snappier crunch. However, the quality of the prawns at Tendon Kohaku is excellent—firm, with a slight pop when you bite into it—and it’s not so oily that the delicate dashi gets drowned out.
Kohaku makes it to eighth place by the sheer freshness and firmness of the prawns used; though the fried batter could use a boost, their version of tempura still passes the test.
Tendon Kohaku is at 3/F Uptown Place Mall, 36th Street corner 9th Avenue, Uptown Bonifacio.
7. Ebi Ten from Marugame Udon (P60/piece)
The appeal of Marugame Udon isn’t difficult to understand, and their tempura isn’t an exception to the rule. The customizable condiments gives this unusual candidate plus points—if you’re like us, piling on the fresh ginger in the sauce is something akin to bliss. Though it’s out for a little while under the heat lamps, these prawns retain some good crunch, and are a really good side dish to whatever you usually order here.
For a place that prides itself primarily in a completely different dish, Marugame Udon still does a more-than-decent job of keeping a classic just that—classic.
See a list of Marugame Udon branches.
6. Asakusa Basket from Tenya Tempura Tendon (P335)
Though the batter can come off a little oversalted, this Asakusa version still delivers on all the tempura fronts. The bonus vegetable-and-shrimp fry gets additional points—which may seem a little arbitrary, but what it does is give you more chewing time without being as filling as the ebi. For us, that means languid enjoyment of one’s meal—do you see what we mean? And, yes, you can eat the tail. Even the veggies are crispy, or near enough!
While Tenya’s version can get a tad oily, there’s a light quality to it that doesn’t get in the way of you enjoying your meal. We suspect the use of rice bran oil and a thorough drying of the ingredients post-wash.
See a list of Tenya branches.
5. Shrimp Tempura from Genki Sushi (P280/five pieces)
Considering that they pride themselves primarily in their conveyor belt sushi (or kaitenzushi), what they’ve been able to do with tempura is pretty impressive. Of course, it also arrives via the little train running along a line of tables, but it’s still fresh, warm, and decently crispy. The prawn hasn’t been turned to mush, and the flavor of the dashi suits what you get perfectly.
For us, Genki Sushi’s take ticks all the right boxes. You can’t go wrong with this one, even if it’s not the star of the menu—that’s saying something.
See a list of Genki Sushi branches.
4. Ebi Fry from Miyazaki Japanese Restaurant (P340/three pieces, P540/five pieces)
Something about this place is somehow upscale and laid-back at the same time. The food in general is amazing, and the only frills to be found are the little twists and special touches that only Miyazaki’s team seem to do. But their tempura has exactly what you want—a crust that crackles—even after a few minutes.
It’s the use of quality ingredients that brings Miyazaki this high up on the list. Like Genki Sushi, it’s got everything we want, but it’s the longevity of the crunch and the pop of the prawn that gives this place an edge.
Miyazaki is at Molito Commercial Complex, Alabang, Muntinlupa City.
3. Jumbo Shrimp from Ebi 10 (P155/piece)
Our former champion can get oilier than expected over less time than you think, but getting the crackle of the batter is well worth the urgency. They won first place last time for a reason—the sprinkling of seaweed and chili makes it punchy on its own. The prawn itself is almost buttery, which may contribute to the oiliness, but overall, we can safely say this version of the dish will always have a special place in our hearts.
See a list of Ebi 10 branches.
2. Ebi from Izakaya Kikufuji (P240/three pieces)
The value for money is one thing—but the consistent quality ensures that Izakaya Kikufuji remains a staple in Makati area. Their tempura is, indeed, fried well enough for you to be able to eat the tail, and the prawns themselves are tender with an initial pop. Even the vegetables are satisfying to dip and eat, and Kikufuji’s dashi should set the bar for the traditional sauce from here on out—it’s not too in-your-face, but the flavor isn’t timid, either.
Izakaya Kikufuji simply gets everything right at a price point that’s pretty hard to top. The line that appears half an hour before they even open? Justified.
Izakaya Kikufuji is at Little Tokyo, Chino Roces Avenue, Makati City.
1. Ebi Tempura from Sensei (P680/six pieces)
Since Sensei’s reopening, we’ve known for sure that this is the tempura we’ve been searching for. The whole prawn is fried so well that you can’t distinguish the head from the batter, and there’s virtually no need for dashi. If anything, it’s better with black sesame salt. But this ebi tempura has the right amount of crunch on the outside, snap from the prawn, and more than enough flavor all on its own that it had to get crowned.
While the other contenders brought everything you could want out of tempura, Sensei is the version that really pushes the boat out on all fronts. If you’re particularly discerning (not picky—discerning), it could ruin you for other prawns.
Sensei is at 181 Aguirre Avenue, BF Homes, Parañaque City.