I heard about a popular tempura restaurant at Tanjong Pagar. It is called Tendon Ginza Itsuki and there is always a queue. So I went down on Saturday, thinking that at least I would not need to fight with the office crowd.
It was drizzling when I reached the restaurant slightly after noon. However the rain did nothing to discourage the crowd and there were already eight people in the queue. The queue was easy to spot as there were two red standing umbrellas marking the queue line. The restaurant had placed benches along the side of the building so that people in the queue could sit and wait. A sign indicated that the restaurant only accepts cash while another sign informed that customers would only be seated when everybody in the group had arrived. Good thing I was only one person then.
A man came out after a while and took our orders. There were only two items on the menu; Special TENDON (yes, this is the way the restaurant wrote it, all in caps) and Vegetable TENDON. Both came with chawanmushi and miso soup. The Special TENDON had two prawns, two chicken, egg and various vegetables while the Vegetable TENDON had only vegetables.
I wait for about half an hour before it was my turn. But according to some regulars in the queue, today’s queue was surprisingly short. Maybe everybody was busy with Chinese New Year preparations.
Walking into the restaurant, I could smell the appetizing aroma of sesame oil. A friend said that was what the restaurant used to fry the tempura. There were about three tables in the restaurant so the majority of the seating was at the counter where we could watch the chefs prepare our food. On the table were a bowl of pickles, a bottle of chilli flakes and a bottle of tendon sauce.
Although this is a eat-and-go place and everyone was busy, either eating or cooking, it didn’t have a bustling atmosphere like a busy coffee shop or hawker centre. It surprisingly felt rather peaceful (comparatively). Yes, nobody lingered after their meals but nobody hurried through their food either.
I had the Special TENDON ($16.20 after taxes). The chawanmushi and miso soup came first so I ate the chawanmushi. The chawanmushi was savory and contained a lot of ingredients despite it being a small bowl. There were mushrooms, seaweed, fishcake, chicken, prawn and gingko nut.
The tendon arrived soon after. There were so many ingredients that I couldn’t see the rice. The chef ladled sauce onto the rice first, then he added the tempura and ladled sauce onto them. The sauce was slightly sweet.
Due to the sauce and the steam from the rice, parts of the tempura had soften and wasn’t crispy. Not a big problem as it still tasted delicious. The prawns were big and tasty but I preferred the chicken fillets. Although the chicken was from the breast meat, they were tender. The other vegetables were a shiitake mushroom, two long beans, a pumpkin, a eggplant and a sweet corn. I don’t like long beans and eggplants but deep frying them made them taste good, or at least edible.
About halfway through, I pushed aside a tempura and found to my surprise, a deep fried egg! The egg yolk was still deliciously runny. Later on, I observed the chef to see how he cooked the egg. There was a tower of metal bowls behind him, each containing a egg. The chef took the bowl, drained the excess liquid, add some tempura batter and then slide it into the hot oil. So it might be more accurate to say that the egg was poached in oil.
As I paid for the meal, I noticed that there was a bottle of fabric deodorizer placed at the cashier counter. I thought it was a nice touch. The whole restaurant was engulfed in sesame oil aroma so the smell got into the clothes. I wondered if anybody used it. During my time in the restaurant, nobody did.
Tendon Ginza Itsuki
Address: 101 Tanjong Pagar Road, Singapore 088522