Who is crazy enough to wait 45 minutes in line in light rain for tempura? Hai!
I was meeting a friend for lunch and she said, "Hey, I know this tempura restaurant in Nihombashi. I always take friends and visitors there. But we may have to wait in line. Do you mind?" I didn't. Plus I didn't believe there would be a line for tempura. And not especially on a rainy day. We walked and got to the restaurant by 11:05. The restaurant opens at 11. And already, the line wound once. The person behind us asked a staff how long the wait would be from our point in the line, and he said 45 minutes. "We're lucky! I've had to wait an hour and a half the past two times I was here," my friend said. And others have reported 3 hour waits!
There was only one thing to order: The Edomae Tendon (Edo style tempura rice bowl) at ¥980. That's it. You can order a bigger serving of rice (I do not recommend this unless you are really really extra hungry)¥100, miso soup ¥120, or additional tempura toppings (price depends on topping). If you are unsure how you feel about the salt water conger eel (I was!), you can opt to change it to the safer white fish kisu. So other than that, there is really nothing by way of choice on the menu.
After exactly 45 minutes -- that's Japanese precision for you -- we were shown to our table on the second floor.
We were instructed to sit on one side of the table as we might have to share the table with other customers coming later.
While waiting, we poured ourselves hot tea onto tea cups that had two roasted black beans on it. We didn't have to wait long though for our order to arrive. The bowl of fluffy rice was heaped high with tempura deep fried to crispy perfection.
First impression: This is not your standard tempura bowl at popular chain Tenya, a go-to for me. This Edomae Tendon is many levels up. At first glance (and because I didn't pay attention to the menu when I ordered), except for the obvious shrimp and fish tails, I wasn't exactly sure what else was on the bowl, so working my way through the bowl was an adventure.
What I thought was silken tofu tempura turned out to be a half-cooked egg tempura, a delectable combination of crunch and gooeyness. Beside it was another amorphorous surprise. Instead of the usual solid piece, the squid was chopped up into one square centimeter bits, enhancing their tenderness. The deep fried nori tastes so good it feels like you're eating junk food.
I was a bit wary of trying the saltwater conger eel tempura but since it was the house specialty, I decided to go with it. While it was good, it still had a bit of fishy taste to it and would opt for the kisu in the future.
Hiding somewhere in the middle of the rice are some bits of yuzu rind. The distinct fragrance of yuzu provided a pleasant contrast and a reminder of the season.
On the middle of the table are two big bowls of pickles: one was the standard sweet daikon pickles that go well with tempura. The other was a burdock ginger pickle that aids digestion.
One of the reasons the wait is so long is because the shop can only seat a maximum of 20 people at each time. While you can't choose where you sit, lucky if you get to sit in the first floor counter seating where you could watch the tempura being prepared. If you have time to spare, this tendon is worth the wait.