Everyone loves Japanese tempura. Even though it was brought to Japan by Portuguese, the Japanese has perfected the art of deep fried food. And the Michelin two stars Ginya shows you how it is done at the top level.
Tempura Ginya 天ぷら 銀屋
A visit to Tempura Ginya is to witness the aesthetics of minimalism and to be thoroughly moved by the cuisine that creates.
The crispy, warm tempura is the medium through which to enjoy all the elements that make up the art of this traditional Japanese cuisine. Just like the warm hospitality from the husband and wife team who take their ingredients very seriously, the flavours of which are perfectly highlighted by the chef whose touch may be the best of all the tempura chefs in Japan.
Tempura Ginya sits in a quiet residential neighborhood just one block from fashionable Platinum Street lined with boutiques and cafés in the exclusive area of Shirokane. A little tricky to find at first, you descend stairs and pass through the draped noren into the exclusive quiet place.
Chef/Owner Katsuji Ginya, native of Kagoshima, wanted to be a chef since he was a child. His tempura dining experience at Tempura Funabashiya at age 19 left such a deep impression that of all the possible options for a chef he decided to stick to the tempura path. Captivated by the simple, sincere techniques of tempura, he built and polished his skills over 22 years under esteemed Tempura Chef Yoshiro Iwai at Tenichi, a Ginza tempura institution established in 1930.
Chef Ginya went independent in 2012, and ever since has been an expert with a singular focus on tempura. His only thoughts are for holding his ingredients in the highest regard and serving them at their most delicious. He is a modest man with unwavering conviction, seen in his own view of himself as merely an assistant in the role of tempura chef. His food is not about putting himself on the plate but letting the ingredients shine.
His speedy movements are also in reverence to the ingredients, locking in the moisture for tempura bites that burst with flavor. Cloak them in batter, fry them in perfectly readied oil – nothing more, nothing less.
The interior is designed by 道下浩樹 Hiroki Michishita and centred around the L-shaped counter for eight. The wall is engraved with a work by calligrapher Mitsuru Fukui stating “Kokoro no mama ni”, which can be translated as “follow your heart”. The seasonal Japanese flower arrangement behind the counter is the work of the proprietress, adding to the elegantly clean yet thoroughly warm ambience.
Pride of place in the center of the counter is the chef’s oil pot in which he dips the tempura pieces with impeccable timing in keeping with each guest’s dining pace. Here on his stage the chef works in beautiful rhythm with no unnecessary movements. Just a few seconds is what stands between good and great tempura, and the tension of getting the timing right makes even the guests sit up straight in anticipation.
From miniature sake cups and beakers to larger dishes for plating cuisine, Chef Ginya uses selected pieces of porcelain creations from Taki Nakazato from Ryuta-gama kiln in the famous porcelain-making region of Karatsu, Saga Prefecture. Nakazato’s pieces are found throughout the experience. While each piece very much has its own personality and presence, Nakazato’s tableware has the ability to highlight any dish plated on it.
There’s only one menu and everyone eats the same number of courses. And they start promptly at the appointment time. If you are late, you will miss the courses served before and they will not compensate or let you catch up. Everyone around the table must comply to the same rhythm.
Promptly at 7.15pm, the dinner “show” began. The first appetiser, tenderised boiled 蛸 Octopus with julienned myoga ginger and yuzu sauce was served to each one of the diners around the counter. The octopus was still slightly chewy but not rubbery like I had earlier the week in Tokyo.
The second appetiser was raw 鰹 Bonito topped with raw miso and chopped shiso leaf.
After these were promptly served and with the placing of the pristine white piece of blotting paper signalled the start of the tempura course. I wasn’t sure if the paper was to drip the oil or to prove that the tempura was not oily, as it was evident during the course it remained dry.
車海老 Tiger Prawns
The first tempura (or should I say two) was the traditional Kurama ebi (tiger prawns). They were prepared from live prawns. At this point, Chef Ginya politely asked me to refrain from taking videos of the preparation process, so it would be still shots from now on.
The head was shelled and only the legs were deep fried to experience the crunch from the tempura. Two pieces of tempura prawns were prepared – one to be eaten with salt, the other with the tempura sauce. This introduction gave one to the expertise of the skills of timing and control of the hot oil by the chef.
鱚 Japanese Whiting
The next piece was the classic kisu fish (Japanese whiting) that was butterflied, battered and deep fried with the tail still intact. The batter separated the hot oil from the fish, and in fact, created a steaming effect. The batter was just right, not too thick and very light and crispy. The fish remained moist and fluffy inside the batter coat. To be eaten with salt as recommended, but one can always break the rules (to glaring looks from the chef).
At this point, the first drink was finished we opened a bottle of Santenay for the rest of the meal.
蓮根 Lotus Root
I always wondered how did they manage to deep fry this stem of the lotus such that the renkon (lotus root) remained crunchy and perfectly cooked.
Next piece of seafood, one huge piece of Hokkaido hotate (scallop), lightly battered and then sliced into two. The adductor muscle of the scallop was harvest from live scallop in its shell; it was served half-cooked so that the sweetness of the bivalve can come through.
水ナス Water Eggplant
This was my favourite piece of tempura of the evening. In most places, the nasu (eggplant) will be deep fried into a mushy state. Here, the special mizunasu (water eggplant) from Senso, Osaka 大阪府泉州 was done perfectly. The eggplant remained crunchy and fully of the natural sweetness and juiciness.
小柱 Surf Clam Adductor
Rollec up like a maki, the kobashira (surf clam adductor) was full of umami and tasted better than the hotate.
雲丹 Sea Urchin
The piece de resistance came out like a piece of otah, I was taken aback how Chef Ginya managed to deep fried the whole chunk of uni (sea urchin) without the soft organ disintegrating in the hot oil.Unfortunately I could not ask for a repeat of this course.
鮎 Sweet Fish
This is a fish that signalled the arrival of summer. A Japanese that had not eaten ayu (sweet fish) during summer would deemed to have skipped the season. I was told that this was the only season the gut of the fish is clean. Nevertheless, this is now my favourite way to eat ayu – the tempura way.
赤いトウモロコシ Red Corn
In the world where everyone is going for non-GMO food sources, the Japanese has perfected the varieties of different vegetable and fruits to produce some of the sweetest, juiciest examples. This is a special variety of corn called Yamato Rouge 大和ルージュ. It was definitely the sweetest corn I have tasted so far.
穴子 Conger Eel
Before serving, Chef Ginya asked how big a piece would you like your anago (conger eel) to be. I should have asked for more as they were perfectly fried as they were delicious.
かき揚げ 食事 Fritters, Pickles and Miso Soup
All that remains will be the closing kakiage (fritters). Here you are asked to make a choice: either with rice and rich akadashi miso soup on the side; as a tendon rice bowl; or as tencha (much like chazuke, but instead of tea, hot dashi soup stock is poured over the rice).
The kakiage was made with shrimps, scallops and legumes all chopped up together and mixed with a batter and deep fried.
So the meal moved slowly, one piece at a time, each not more than a bite and a half and with just sufficient intervals between them that your appetite remained in constant anticipation. The rich flavor of sesame oil permeated every morsel, and yet there was virtually no sense of oiliness. This is the hallmark of superb tempura.
The Wine Selections
And it is customary to order a drink. I started with an ice cold beer and then proceeded to wine.
Domaine Christophe Mittnacht Terres d’étoiles “Gyotaku” Alsace
Certified biodynamic and a blend of Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Riesling and Muscat from Alsace, France.
Blended specifically for sushi and sashimi, Gyotaku was created through the marriage of a French Winemaker and a Japanese Chef. This wine is aromatic, dry and fresh to complement fish, with enough character to stand up to soy and wasabi. Fuller bodied with a long and richer ended finish. “Gyotaku” is a traditional Japanese art created by doing a pressing of the fish with ink and paper.
Jean-Marc Vincent Santenay 1er Cru “Les Gravières” 2017
Chardonnay from Santenay, Cote de Beaune, Cote d’Or, Burgundy, France.
Nice rich earthy flavours to this wine. Light to medium bodied with a nose of petrichor, juniper, forest floor and a little red fruit. Cherry and green herbs with some smoke on the finish. A little too tart to merit a higher rating but I’m guessing that will smooth out in a future years. A great choice with tempura as it cuts through the greasiness (if there was any at all).
The chef dispatches his tempura pieces one after another demonstrating a kaleidoscope of colors and skills so wondrous it is hard to believe that all this is the result of a single cooking method – frying in oil. With the husband in charge of cuisine and the wife covering service and drinks, this formidable pair together orchestrates an unforgettable meal.
Diners can fully enjoy the seasoned proficiency of the master at work. Watching his pots intently, listening keenly to the sound of the oil, Chef Ginya moves with the natural ease of a man whose craft pervades his every sinew. If you ask, he replies, “I don’t think about it; my body just knows the moves”. Ginya’s handling of oil, batter, seafood and vegetables is long past the theoretical stage; he is at one with his craft, body and soul.
However, do note that Chef Ginya is really strict on the rule about timing and punctuality, and there’s no dessert.
Tempura Ginya 銀屋
B1F, 5-17-9 Shirokanedai, Minato-ku, Tokyo, 108-0071, Japan
Tel : +81 3-5422-7612
Visited Jul 2023
Michelin Japan Edition 2 Stars 2023
#tempuraginya #天ぷら銀屋 #天ぷら #天麩羅