Friends visiting Japan for the first time often ask me for recommendations on where to eat. Tempura is almost synonymous to 'Japanese food' for many foreigners. I always recommend Tenya without any hesitation. Yes, it is a chain, but that only means that it is easy to find a Tenya restaurant -- they are conveniently located near major train stations, and sometimes, inside a train station (e.g. Kita Senju Station). It is the only restaurant that has consistently authentic, high-quality, yet affordable tempura, often better than the tempura you find at fancier and more expensive Japanese restaurants. How affordable? You can enjoy a bowl of assorted tempura over rice for 450 yen!
What is good tempura? The batter should be light and crunchy, not hard, soggy, or oily. The ingredients inside should taste fresh and juicy after being properly steamed inside the batter as they are deep fried. This is exactly what you get at any Tenya brand every single time. Their bestselling tendon (tempura over rice bowl) features ebi (shrimp), kisu (fish), ika (squid), kabocha (squash), and inggen (string beans) tempura, and costs only 500 yen but if you would like less rice than usual just like me, the very same bowl costs only 450 yen. I ordinarily do not like ika tempura as they are sometimes too tough or rubbery but Tenya's squid is always tender, almost like fish meat.
There are many combinations to choose from, such as an all-vegetable tempura bowl or an all-seafood tempura bowl. Tenya also offers seasonal menu items featuring fresh produce usually eaten during that season. It is possible to order extra tempura to go with your tendon, or create your own meal by selecting your favorite pieces. Sometimes, I order an extra renkon (lotus root) tempura to go with my regular order of tendon for an additional 80 yen.
Tempura is traditionally eaten with soba or udon and Tenya has tempura sets with either hot or cold noodles. Tenya's soba and udon are cooked perfectly al dente, unlike other noodle shops that sometimes serve their noodles too mushy.
Ordering has been made easy with machines that can provide the options in English, Korean, and Chinese. Drop by a Tenya restaurant and enjoy what could be your best tempura experience in Japan!