Tuesday, February 14, 2006

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!


Blogger Sandhya said...

Those veggies have such delicate coating. Good pic Lulu. Enjoy your trip!

9:32 pm  
Blogger Lulu said...

not my picture, sandhya. i forgot to take my camera but i hate blogging without a photo so i picked it off corbis.

11:48 pm  
Anonymous Ezra said...


I was shocked and thrilled to hear you tried the seafood...could we be on the verge of a whole new category of food for you to blog about?!

6:23 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi..Been visiting yr blog quite often. Dont intend to sound rude but could you please stop calling yrself vegetarian. I remember reading a while back that you 'occasionally' eat mussels. I find it quite oxymoronish to read 'being a vegetarian..' followed by 'dig into seafood.' Again, no offence.

12:12 pm  
Blogger Lulu said...

hi ezra,
so great to hear from you!!!!!! hope you are well. i am so dying to try rasa on charlotte road - i haven't forgotten about that recommendation of yours.
when are you coming to visit??

hi anonymous,
you make a point but it sounds like you're the one irritated/offended by my occasional flirtations with seafood. for me, having seafood a few times a year does not make me a non-vegetarian!

1:20 pm  
Blogger qaminante said...

I think I'm going to have to stop reading your blog as it makes me drool... even though I don't like things like mussels, myself! My dietician uses the term "fishetarian" for vegetarians who eat fish, although to me "vegetarian" merely means "non-meat-eater", and does not exclude dairy products, eggs, fish or seafood (unlike VEGAN). The problem seems to be that for some people, vegetarianism is a political statement and they can't accept how others use the term. Anyhow, I do love reading about other people's food and travel experiences.

5:12 pm  
Blogger gs said...

well,true vegetarianism is no meat,no fish,no eggs and no sea food.one can occasionallly eat eggs and still call oneself a vegetarian.

12:15 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Greta blog. But I have to agree vegetarianism to me means no meat, no seafood, no eggs. I know a lot of Americans call themselves veggie when all they mean is they eat no meat and it irritates me a bit because it makes things hard for people who really are veggie ALL of the time. The term for you would be "pescatarian".

When my mum visited from India, that was the hardest part was when the waitress would assure us the dish was veggie, and when it was brought to the table we would find shrimp in it or egg - not at all what my 100% veggie almost vegan Moum wanted.

2:24 am  
Blogger Lulu said...

i totally understand where you are coming from. i shall stop referring to myself as vegetarian on my blog :)
both my parents are "pure vegetarian" - my mom will not even approve that i LOVE garlic.

fyi, i had exactly the same issues as a vegetarian (according to your definition) all my life until a few years ago when i decided to eat some seafood just a few times a year. trust me, i have endured many a salad on a united flight which had had the crab meat removed :(

however, being married to a meat-devouring man has forced me to experiment just a bit...

9:19 pm  

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