Ten-ichi 天一 (Kyoto)

Location: Kyoto, Japan
Address: Kyoto Station (11 floor in "Eat Paradise")
Website: www.tenichi.co.jp

Type of Meal: Lunch

We stumbled upon Ten-Ichi by chance, as by the time we arrived in Kyoto, I was famished and needed to refuel quickly.  Luckily, the JR Kyoto train station does not disappoint with the entire 11th floor dedicated to restaurants.  There are likely elevators somewhere, but after looking around for five minutes we couldn’t find it.  My suggestion is to go up to the pedestrian walkway on the 2nd floor and take all the endless escalators up to save some frustration.

Ten-Ichi is a tempura chain with locations across the country and their flagship store in Ginza. Although they do have tables, the best seat in the house is at the bar seats where you can see the chefs in action. Of course, you do end up smelling heavily of fried food; personally, I was thankful that they had little carts behind the chairs where you can stash jackets and bags to cover them from as much of the fumes as possible.

A good time to visit is during lunch as they offer specials, which is what we ordered (¥1,995), quite a good deal compared to their dinner combos that can be upwards of ¥5,000.

When the platter of dishes arrived, one contained a piece of cold squid with tofu skin and chives. Although it was very simply seasoned (a miso dressing?), the squid was tender and went well with the blanch chives. A great amuse I wasn’t expecting and helped tied me over until the tempura started arriving.

Unlike my experiences in Canada, Ten-ichi’s tempura is freshly battered and cooked, with the chef presenting one ingredient at a time so that each one can be enjoyed piping hot. The first to be done were two shrimp. They were not as heavily battered and “fluffy” as the North American versions, rather each shrimp was gently coated so that the crust was crispy but not overly oily. Surprisingly, the shrimp’s natural sweetness was still pretty pronounced and shone through the batter and soy sauce.

Next a shiitake stuffed with crab meat was served. The mushroom was fairly light tasting allowing the sweet flaked crab meat to permeate through. Personally, I found this went better with just a light dusting of salt. 

When I saw the eggplant I was a bit worried that it would be gross and oily – eggplant is notorious for soaking up whatever it’s cooked in. However, this certainly wasn’t the case and was in fact tender and delicious.

Following was another seafood offering, a delicate white fish fillet deboned and perfect for eating.  Juicy and just cooked through, the fish was fresh and such a good combination of flakiness and crunch. What I wouldn’t have given to have some house made tartare sauce with this!

When the chef first put down the next vegetable, I assumed it was a green bean. Upon biting into it I discovered it was actually a pepper. Interestingly, it had no heat nor was it sweet; just a pepper flavour with a slightly bitter aftertaste.

The last item brings the meal full circle – more shrimp.  This time in fritter form with tons of tiny shrimp nestled into a crispy and doughy batter.  It’s great for breaking into little pieces, dunking into the light soy, scooping up the ground daikon and eating with rice. If you were worried about not being full before, this certainly will fill you up and ensure you’re satisfied!

I absolutely love how each table gets a bowl of ground daikon (a light tasting turnip) to add to the soy sauce.  The juiciness of it cuts through the oiliness and helps the soy sauce stick better onto the tempura. Once scooped onto the rice and mixed with some crunchy pickled vegetables it complements the plain rice quite well.

Like most Japanese restaurants, Ten-Ichi includes a bowl of hot miso soup with the meal. Ten-Ichi jazzes it up a bit by adding mini clams into the soup, not the easiest thing to eat but gives it some extra depth of flavour.

Why isn’t tempura served like this all over the world? Instead of the overly battered pieces of frozen shrimp with tasteless root vegetables, in Japan chefs use fresh seasonal ingredients with each piece offering unique flavours. Of course, it also helps that you’re served piece-by-piece so that each one arrives deliciously hot.  Most pieces aren’t that large, so once you finish you can’t help but anticipate when the chef will lift their large chopsticks and place the next offering in front of you.

Overall mark - 8 out of 10

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Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!