Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Tempura Hajime

I was surprised that I could actually secure a booking for 2 on a Friday night within such short notice of only a few days. For those who have been there would know that the place is small and caters for only 12 people so bookings have to be made way in advance. Guess I was lucky then!

I read that the founder and chef, Daisuke Miyamoto has left the restaurant to the capable hands of a young new chef early this year but I'm sure the food and quality will still be as good. 

I received a text message hours before my booking with brief directions to enter through the brown wooden door. Yet we still missed it! We actually turned into an alley but went - wait, this can't be it. So we retraced our steps and paid careful attention to the numbers this time. 

Finally found it! The sign was hidden behind a brown wooden door (yep, just like what the text said. but hey, it was dark in the evening) and it was located at an office building so you would walk past not noticing it!

We went in and was greeted by a lovely Japanese lady who brought us through a dimly lit waiting room into the dining area to our seats. She also took our coats for us. We were seated around the area where the chef prepares our tempura.

View from our seats. Behind that copper looking thing is a pot of boiling oil where the chef cooks the batter coated morsels and serves it to you on the plates for it to cool.

There are only 2 set menus - Tempura & Sushi course ($85) and Tempura course ($75). Both are quite similar with slight differences in the tempura choices and the main course. 

Arthur decided on the tempura and sushi course so I opted for the other one.
Hot sake. I like how they bring it in the metal container with hot water so it keeps it warm. Not many places actually do that.
We also get to choose our own sake cups!
Now for our entrees which are the same for both sets.
Sashimi of ocean trout and kingfish plus chicken salad with sesame oil dressing.

2 dipping choices: Salt and freshly squeezed lemon juice or grated daikon and tentsuyu sauce. The chef will advise us which sauce to use when he serves us each tempura.
Corn tempura. Sweet and crunchy.
Tuna & avocado tempura and Eel tempura, both dipped with sweet teriyaki sauce
Prawn tempura. 
You know for some tempuras, all you can taste is floury batter and you wonder where the prawn is? Well, this was the complete opposite. This was so good. The prawn was fresh and sweet. Wasn't springy and crunchy like the ones you get at take away stores or food courts. The tempura batter was so light and crunchy. Not overly greasy and oily too.

I should also note that the chef replaces the white paper that is used to soak up the oil every now and then. 
Scallop stuffed with sea urchin
Sweet potato
Whiting fillet
Juicy mushroom stuffed with minced prawn
Marbled beef - juicy and tender. Don't think the Tempura & Sushi course had this one. 
Salad with shiso dressing

The salad dressing had a minty taste which piqued my curiosity. So I asked the lady and she told me it was shiso, the leaf that was also used in the sashimi earlier. 
Plum wine - as a palate cleanser I believe. I liked it!

Now for the part where the dishes get a bit different depending on which set you choose. 

Assorted sushi. One of them is marbled beef, if I remember correctly. This came with the Tempura & Sushi course.
This was mine, the Tempura course. Mixed vegetable and seafood tempura with rice and teriyaki sauce.

There were little bits of soft shell crab in there and I kinda wished that they given more of it or better still, made the whole dish a soft shell crab one. I actually preferred the assorted sushi that Arthur had over mine. 

That wraps up our mains! Now for dessert.

Yoghurt pannacotta. It had liquor with it but I don't know what it was. 

Overall, it was a pleasant dining experience and we enjoyed ourselves. It is a little pricey but you do get quality food and good service. The tempura was superb and the good thing was, I didn't walk away with a sick greasy feeling. I would go back there again but not anytime soon.

Tempura Hajime
60 Park St 
South Melbourne 3205
(03) 9696 0051

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