tempura restaurant in ginza
i can't believe i'm stuck in a foreign city for valentine's day second year in a row. last year was sydney (also for a business meeeting) and this year it's tokyo. valentine's day has become such a non-event that h doesn't even bother to wish me anymore. sigh...
the upside is that i went to dinner with a very charming colleague who has worked in asia for years and is a wonderful conversationalist. he's been to japan many many times so was the perfect companion for a first evening in tokyo. we chose a tempura restaurant in ginza, a short walk from the akasaka prince hotel where we are staying. i hadn't realised that there is no such thing as a "japanese" restaurant as i knew them in charlotte, san francisco, new york or london. here it's sushi, tempura, teppanyaki, sashimi or one of the other elements of japan's amazingly diverse cuisine. a respectable japanese restaurant will never mix and match. too bad for us who like a little variety. being vegetarian, i might not have had much to eat at a sashimi joint but tempura worked out ok. at least i din't go hungry though i had to dig into some seafood to satisfy my hunger.
mark and i ordered two pri-fixe dinners of assorted tempura (vegetables, seafood etc), rice, japanese pickles, salad and dessert. we also ordered a bottle of pinot to wash it all down. i was ravenous as my last meal had been a light breakfast consisting of an english muffin and some marmalade right before we landed at narita. right after, i had to go straight into meetings with a japanese client all day till 8 pm. i was tempted to ask them around 6 pm if they had any valentine's day plans which they needed to leave for but decided against that. the work culture here is hard core. i was lucky to get three milky teas between 2pm and 8 pm which were a true saving grace for my stomach which was churning by the time dinner came around.
tempura's origins in japanese cuisine date back to the portuguese who taught the japanese how to deep-fry seasonal vegetables and seafood in a light, crisp batter. the japanese have elevated the basic technique to a pure art. the freshest in-season vegetables and seafood are use and fried one morsel at a time in high quality sesame oil and the tempura are generally never too oily, if done the right way. i picked on bean, eggplant, lima bean and tofu tempura but also had to taste some prawn and other assorted seafood tempura as there just wasn't enough of a selection of vegetables. luckily for me, the pinot was pretty good so i pretended the non-vegetable tempura were just different forms of tofu. miso soup was served right at the end it had baby mussels floating in it. it was actually much tastier than the miso broths i have had before, even at nobu. dessert was a choice of melon, pineapple or mango. no surprised as to which was was my selection!