Fujiyoshi - one of the most popular tempura restaurants in Tokyo
Hamadayama 3-25-12, Suginami-ku, 168-0065 Tokyo
Fujiyoshi is a tempura restaurant and located a few minutes walk from Hamadayama station in a residential area. Though I am not much fond of tempura, I got interested in Fujiyoshi, because I found it ranked among the top five tempura restaurants in Tokyo according to the public rating of a popular gourmet website.
Tempura is a representative Japanese dish where ingredients are battered and deep fried. While similar dishes exist all over the world, the characteristic of tempura is I think its lightness. Freshly cooked tempura has very light and crispy batter. Traditionally we dip fresh tempura in soy-sauce based sauce with grated radish and eat it immediately. Nowadays, restaurants often recommend using powder salt for seasoning, so that the lightness of tempura and the natural taste of ingredients are emphasized.
The origin of the word "tempura" is said to be Portuguese. However, opinions are divided as to exactly which Portuguese word was the origin of "tempura" - temperar, tempero, temporas or templo. Anyhow, during the development of tempura since its introduction by Portuguese missionaries at end of the 16th century, people in Tokyo came to use more sesame oil for frying tempura and their tempura has acquired somewhat darker color and stronger fragrance and taste than in Kansai. But, recently Kansai style tempura has gained popularity even in Tokyo. Many people believe that white colored tempura with mild flavor is more sophisticated and prefer it. Using powder salt in place of sauce is also a habit imported from Kansai region and in line with the idea that less color and more natural taste make foods more sophisticated. I cannot agree to such an idea without reservation, because such kind of "sophistication" might be agreeable to old and weak people or those who do not engage with physical labor, but not to strong and young people with full energy.
Anago (Conger eel)
Renkon (Lotus root)
Kisu (sillaginoid )
Fujiyoshi is a family-run restaurant. Father cooks and serves tempura to the guests sitting at the counter and his wife and daughter take care of guests and do other business. Fujiyoshi serves basically Kansai style tempura, though its service is more of Tokyo style.
Fujiyoshi has an L-shaped counter and Mr. Fujiyoshi cooks tempura in front of his guests and serves piece by piece directly to individual serving plates. A sheet of Japanese paper is laid on the plate and absorbs excess oil in the batter.
Fujiyoshi's counter and two serving plates for us
While I was in Fujiyoshi, only couples came and sat at the counter, though there are also two usual tables. Face to face contact between the cook and his guests is typical of small Japanese restaurants including sushi, yakitori, oden and tempura restaurants and bars. This style makes it possible to serve guests with one or a few people,
to be attentive to their individual needs and to have personal communication on top of the pleasure of eating and drinking. I presume that this style originated in mobile stalls which are popular all over Asia. As for tempura restaurants, while serving over a counter is popular in Tokyo and tempura is usually brought to tables in Kansai.
I ordered Take-course (5,800 yen), which includes such kinds of fish as shrimp, conger and sillaginoid and vegetables. If you consider that high-class tempura restaurants usually demand more than 10,000 yen for a modest course dish in Tokyo, you would appreciate the cost-performance of Fujiyoshi. Its location - in a quiet residential area - is also attractive, if you want to fully taste the charm of sophisticated tempura in a relaxed manner.