Tempura Kondo

Tempura Kondo
Sakaguchi Building 9F
Google Maps location

In planning my Japan trip, I wanted to make sure to vary the meals.  The dining scene in Tokyo is just so vast.  You can go cheap and casual or you can splurge Michelin style.  I wanted to do a  little bit of both and try a little bit of everything.  Tempura is an obvious pick.  It’s something pretty common place, even in middle of nowhere America, but it’s never anything I’ve tried as the main highlight of a high end meal.  Tempura Kondo boasts 2 Michelin stars.  It was even the top pick for Prime Minister Abe when President Obama visited, but they just had to settle for Sukiyabashi Jiro instead.  First world problems huh, Mr. Obama?  With all this to back it, I believed there was something wonderful I had yet to experience with tempura.  Surely, Kondo was doing something amazing.

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Shrimp
I think the same shrimp I ate raw for breakfast at Daiwa was fried up here for lunch. Small, but still tender and amazingly fresh.  I was surprised that the batter was more floury than light and crispy. Honestly, I think the tempura at Inaba in Torrance is better.  The shrimp head was really quite delicious though. All those little legs were so crispy and crunchy. A generous squeeze of lemon really made this bite dance in my mouth. The irony.
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No doubt the freshness of the ingredients doesn’t just apply to the seafood being fried up here. The vegetebles are high quality as well. From what I understand Chef Kondo goes to great lengths to source only the most perfect vegetables. Unlike the proteins, the vegetebles are fried twice. I assume once in high heat, and a second time in lower heat to cook it through. I was quite mesmerized by the whole process from my front and center seat.
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Uni wrapped in shiso
Bloggers and reviews gave the uni high marks. We were a bit disappointed.  Not that there was anything bad about it. The sweet perfection was still there, but we both felt uni is best eaten cool and raw.

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Eggplant
These cute mini eggplants were tender and delicious.
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Kisu japanese whiting
A delicate white fish. Tender on the inside with just enough crispy light tempura batter.
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Scallop
I’m glad The Annoyer ordered this because it turned out to be one of the best tempura items of the meal.  It was a very large scallop that was still a little bit raw in the center. The contrast was surprisingly tasty. It’s not something I would think to fry up but they did a marvelous job preserving the qualities of a raw scallop while still frying it up.
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Lotus Root
Lotus root is not something I’m accustomed to eating. The textural cross between the crunch of bamboo and the starchiness of a root vegetable is a bit foreign to me. Still a good course.  DSC08428
White Fish
I didn’t catch the name but it was a bit more meaty than the last one.
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Onion
I like onions. Maybe I like them too much. This was actually my next favorite item after the scallop. It was sweet and not overpowering in that wretched onion way that stinks up your breath. I assume the baby size has something to do with the mildness and sweetness. DSC08432DSC08433
Anago
Eel was tender, but this is where the batter needed to be more crispy
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Sweet Potato
This was a recommended item among bloggers and reviewers.  It is made very clear that none of the set menus include the sweet potato, which has to be ordered at the beginning of the meal since it takes so long to cook.  Chef Kondo had this in the hot oil for quite a long time, but then it was taken out and wrapped in paper towels to continue steaming (my guess) for just as equally long.  I wondered how it did not get soggy being wrapped just out of the fryer.  The skin wasn’t super crispy like a chip per se, but it certainly maintained a firm texture.  It contrasted to the soft sweet interior.  This is definitely a tough thing to eat by yourself so it was good The Annoyer and I split one.  I would have been fine just eating 1/4 of a piece since I’m not a super huge sweet potato fan.   It was really filling to say the least.
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Pickles, Miso, Rice
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Dessert
Of course, the oranges were juicy and sweet.
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I’m glad we came to Tempura Kondo for lunch rather than dinner, since the prices were more reasonable.  We tried to saved even more since The Annoyer and I shared one lunch set and ordered the uni, scallop, and sweet potato a la carte.  The final tab came out to the equivalent of 2 lunch sets.  *SMH*  Well, at least we got more variety our way.  The food was good, but didn’t live up to my expectations.  The Annoyer felt the same way.  Service was attentive and restaurant is very clean and well run.  But, I find it hard to believe that this place deserves 2 Michelin stars.  Granted, nothing ever tasted heavy or greasy, but I wanted more light crunch from the tempura batter.  Sadly, I feel like I had better tempura at a no name soba place later on during the trip.  It’s safe to say I won’t return.  I’m sure Mr. Obama would agree with me had he been able to dine here too.
10 – You NEED to eat here
9 – Awesome 
8 – Very good
7 – Good
6 – OK (factoring in price & Michelin rating)
5 – Average  
4 – Not bad
3 – Not good
2 – Terrible
1 – Do NOT eat here

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