If internet rumours can be trusted, Sukiyabashi Jiro was not the first choice for prime minister Abe and president Obama dinner (see the Grub Street article here). 2 Michelin starred tempura restaurant Kondo was, but it was fully booked and the chef refused to cancel any of his bookings that night in order to accommodate the Japanese government request (and get the worldwide publicity).
My recent encounter with similar behaviour was when I ordered something from Japan and the parcel didn’t arrive on time (in fact, it was just two days late). The seller informed me that she had refunded the whole purchase. I even felt embarrassed as when a package is two days late in Europe, it’s not even considered “late”. And this is just one of many examples of the differences between Japanese and the rest of the world mentalities (no tipping is probably the best known… ).
Whether it’s a sushi- ya, or tempura-ya, one of the main characteristics of Japanese restaurants is that a chef cooks food in front of you. Some products, like shrimps for example, are still moving moments away from cooking. There can’t be any hiding or cheating. At high-end tempura restaurants, food preparation show is particularly fun to watch. Only a narrow counter separates you from the kitchen.
A visit to Kondo (2*, Sakaguchi Bldg., 9F, 5-5-13 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo; tel.03-5568-092 ) was my second time at a high-end tempura restaurant in Tokyo and my expectations were really high because the first time I tried tempura in Tokyo was at 7 Chome Kyoboshi two years ago. 7 Chome Kyoboshi, which now has 3 Michelin stars, is in a totally different league from any other tempura restaurant in the world.
Maybe I am wrong, but I heard that super fine tempura batter used by Shigeya Sakakibara of 7 Chome Kyoboshi is considered “Kyoto style”, while thicker batter is “Tokyo style”. The perfection created by the tempura master comes at a price. A menu costs 33,600 – 38,000 Yen per person ( Around 330- 370 euros!) that I didn’t really want to spend this time. Anyway, tempura omakase at Kondo was not as “out of this world” as at 7 Chome Kyoboshi, but still very good. One of the most interesting products deep fried, was sea urchin in shiso leaf.
The dinner menu costs from 10,500 to 17,850 Yen per person. The menu in the images is the one for 10,500.