New Restaurant Alert: Tenya Tempura Tendon, SM Megamall, Mandaluyong
Tempura fanatics rejoice! This new Japanese franchise specializes in the golden, crisp all-time favorite.
Tenya Tempura Tendon
4/F SM Megamall A, Mandaluyong City
Open daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
(SPOT.ph) It’s lunchtime on a payday weekend and Tenya Tempura Tendon’s first branch at SM Megamall is packed. But it’s not chaotic: There is some zen, an order in the way guests are ushered into the well-lit dining area, whether in confined cubicles or at the more private bar that faces the kitchen, in the way the server patiently discusses the menu to the uninitiated; even in the way the hot tea is served to tide the waiting.
Very crisp look
But waiting is uncommon and the little cup of tea has barely been touched when the orders make it to the table. This Shinkansen level of speed is fully appreciated especially on a busy day and with the Japanese franchise only a few weeks old. But remembering how the Japanese value time, there really shouldn’t be any reason for a potato salad (P115) and the Isobe Cheese (P185) to take too long. The former is far from the usual chunky version everyone’s accustomed to. It’s so smooth and creamy that finishing the bowl becomes so effortless. The latter is made of square blocks of cheddar cheese, wrapped in nori, then deep-fried a la tempura. Once dipped in sweetish Jap mayo, this can be addicting. Gobble up the nuggets quickly to keep them from turning rock solid.
Japanese Potato Salad (P115)
Isobe Cheese (P185)
The main event is the Tendon (P255), a culinary tradition from Asakusa, Tokyo. Take a large bowl, fill it with two cups of perfectly soft and sticky Japanese rice, lay a family of seafood and veggie tempura on top, drizzle everything with a life-changing dontare (it's a sweet, dark sauce that thankfully comes in a pot on the table for more dousing), and enjoy a classic tendon. The meal comes with a side of miso soup, acting as a mellow contrast to the richness of the rice bowl’s components. If you’re the no-frills type, however, and want only prawn tempura, go for the Asakusa Special Tendon (P295), but be warned that it's not as satisfying.
All Star Tempura Hot Udon: Black tiger prawn, squid, salmon, kani stick, small kakiage, green beans, and mushroom
Buta Kimuchi Tendon (P295)
Carb lovers will consider Tenya heaven. The udon and soba sets come with tempura, rice, and a choice between hot or cold noodles. The All Star Tempura with hot udon (P455) swimming in an umami-rich broth is pure comfort in a bowl. The Buta Kimuchi Tendon (P295) is another. A good alternative for those allergic to seafood, it has three huge slices of pork belly and a scoop of kimuchi (Japanese kimchi) sitting atop the rice. Each bite is a bomb of flavors, until you get to the part where it’s just all batter (read: more carbs!).
Jo Tempura Cold Soba: two black tiger prawns, kani stick, small kakiage, green beans, sweet potato, eggplant
Yes, the tempura could be lighter and crispier, but for such situations, have another pour of the dontare sauce, Tenya's surprise hero. The sidekick? The servers who do everything with a smile, even when you're asking for tea for the nth time. It’s not unbelievable that Tenya is packed. Filipinos love authentic tempura and white rice; but more than that, we appreciate good and speedy service, and a good dose of zen—from carbs, of course.
Photos by Hans Fausto