Dinner @ Tempura Motoyoshi 天ぷら 元吉 (Tokyo, Japan)

May 11, 2017 in Japanese by thywhaleliciousfay

The one tempura restaurant which I really wanted to visit in Japan was none other than Tempura Motoyoshi. Unfortunately, I was too late in my attempt in November 2016.

Thus, the very first thing I did after booking my accommodation for my February 2017 trip was to request hotel concierge to make reservation. And this time round, I was too early. Hahaha. Apparently the restaurant accepts reservation only 1 month in advance. Eg, reservation is only accepted on 14 January for 15 February.

With 2 seatings, I went with the 1st seating at 6pm. My hotel also informed that I had to pre-select my dinner course. With options of ¥9500, ¥10,300, ¥13,400 and ¥14,900, I went with ¥14,900 as it’s the one course which allowed me to try head chef Kazuhito Motoyoshi’s signature sea urchin tempura.

And with that, I waited excitedly for my dinner at 1 Michelin star Tempura Motoyoshi.

It was a little tricky locating the restaurant. If one uses Google map often, one would know there are times when it’s not very precise in showing one’s location. I missed taking a turn and took 10 (extra) minutes to relocate the stairs leading into the small alley from the main road. And because of that, I reached the restaurant 5 minutes late. Which I must emphasize one shouldn’t be late as chef Motoyoshi san starts dinner only after everyone reaches.

With only 8 counter seats, I was excited to be given what seemed to be the best seat in the house. Keke. And I got to understand why we had to pre-select our course; Ingredients used for the night were displayed beautifully on the counter for all to see. Which chef Motoyoshi san took away once everyone took their seats. He continued with dinner preparation by doing the necessary slicing before placing them into the respective boxes. I immediately fell in love with his presentation. One could tell how much he emphasized on details.

  

My box looked a little empty only because I was by myself. Although I must also add that solo dining is addictive. Keke. And with that, I commenced my ¥14,900 dinner with:-

1) Item #1 (above) – Baby snapper sashimi.

2) Item #2 (above) – Shrimp head tempura. Recommended to go with salt.

  

3) Item #3 (above) – Prawn tempura. These were served separately. I had the first on its own, and second with tentsuyu (tempura dipping sauce).

4) Item #4 (above) – Asparagus tempura.

5) Item #5 (above) – Kisu (Japanese whiting) fish tempura. “5 days aging”, chef Motoyoshi san said. I wasn’t sure if I heard ’5 days aging’ or ’5 days age’, but I assumed he meant the fish was aged for 5 days since fishes couldn’t possibly get so big in 5 days. Ha. And I was told to have my first bite with no sauce.

6) Item #6 (above) – Shiitake mushroom (half portion) tempura.

7) Item #7 (above) – Baby white anchovy (shirauo) tempura.

8) Item #8 (above) – Rice mixed with sea urchin served on seaweed tempura, topped with blackthroat seaperch (nodoguro) and grated radish. Said to be a traditional Japanese breakfast dish.

9) Item #9 (above) – Broad bean tempura.

10) Item #10 (above) – Carrot (2 colours) tempura.


11) Item #11 – Shirako (milt) tempura.

12) Item #12 – Shirako tempura on grilled shirako, and topped with spring onion. This was perfect!

13) Item #13 – This was one dish which I couldn’t comprehend what chef Motoyoshi san said. If we had the ability to read one another’s mind, chef Motoyoshi san probably saw many questions marks in mine. Haha. And noticing that I was clueless, he forewarned me that it would be very bitter. And it was. It was only later that I learnt this was ginkgo biloba.

14) Item #14 – Scallop sushi with tempura bits. But instead of shari (sushi rice), chef Motoyoshi san used grated radish. Really good.


15) Item #15 (above) – Kinmedai (golden eye snapper). And of course, it was deep fried as tempura before the kitchen prepared it as stew.

16) Item #16 – Lotus root tempura.

17) Item #17 (above) – Sea urchin on shiso leaf tempura. And I was told to bring the paper nearer to my mouth before picking the tempura up to eat. And needless to say, this was so, so good.

18) Item #18 (above) – Red daikon (radish) tempura topped with grated radish and shoyu.


19) Item #19 (above) – Anago (sea eel) tempura. And for this, we were also given sliced gari (pickled ginger) to go with it.

20) Item #20 (above) – Satsumaimo (sweet potato) tempura. This was seriously good.

21) Item #21 (above) – And diners were offered 3 ways to enjoy the prawn and scallop kakiage; On rice with miso soup served separately or on rice drizzled with special sauce or on rice with tea. I went with the latter. And for tencha, I could choose between green tea or roasted tea. I asked for recommendation as I wasn’t sure, to which chef Motoyoshi san recommended green tea. And I thought he was really cute cause he actually thought hard for 3 seconds before replying. After choosing how I wanted to enjoy my tempura donburi, chef Motoyoshi san took out 7 bowls. Smallest being a sake cup while the largest was almost as big as a pot. I went with the second smallest size as I was too full and I had a second dinner in an hour’s time! Keke. After which, chef Motoyoshi san would show and ask if we were fine with the amount of rice before he commenced cooking. For one’s first visit, I would definitely recommend getting the tencha. My ears were treated to the sizzling music of freshly fried kakiage placed into my bowl of rice, green tea and seaweed that was in front of me. Such a visual too! And the size of kakiage varied according to the bowl one chose.


22) Item #22 (above) – Milk pudding with strawberry compote. I really enjoyed this.

23) Item #23 (above) – Green tea.

I had a fabulous time dining at Tempura Motoyoshi. Everything was great. From the food, service, ambience, and to chef Motoyoshi san himself. Although he didn’t speak much, he gave out the vibe of a friendly, warm and sincere teddy bear. Keke. He always had a smile on his slightly chubby face.

The thing about dining alone was that it allowed me to pay more attention to my surrounding when I would usually be engrossed in catching up with my dining companions. It was fun watching chef Motoyoshi san cook for he would bop left, right, up and down as though he was dancing. And I observed his movements were graceful and intentional. When chef Motoyoshi san was preparing the baby white anchovy tempura, he coated the anchovy in the wet batter before ‘flinging’ them into the pot of oil with strong, smooth moves.

And he had no ‘one formula’ for the batter. Chef Motoyoshi san adjusted the batter to different levels of density according to the ingredients he was frying. And the batter of his tempura were light and crisp. And the reason behind the many vegetables dishes on his menu was because he’s keen to see people eat lots of seasonal vegetables. I loved that his vegetables came in a wide range of colours too. It was my first seeing (and eating) red carrot!

Tempura Motoyoshi is one restaurant I would urge everyone to dine at. I am making plans to return to Japan in 2018 for the sakura (cherry blossom) period and having a meal at Tempura Motoyoshi is on my itinerary. I am already excited because from instagram, I realised chef Motoyoshi san would even decorate his place with (fake) cherry blossoms. How lovely!

TEMPURA MOTOYOSHI 天ぷら 元吉
3-2-4 Minamiaoyama, Minato, Tokyo, Japan (東京都 港区 南青山 3-2-4 セントラル 6B-A)
+81 3 3401 0722, Tablelog
Overall: 8.5
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 9
Sat : 12:00 – 14:00 (Lunch)
Ambience: 8
Tues – Sat : 17:30 – 01:00 (Dinner)
Value: 8
Service: 9
* Closed on Sun, Mon

UPDATE 1: Restaurant was awarded 1 Michelin star by Michelin Guide Tokyo 2018.
UPDATE 2: Restaurant was awarded 1 Michelin star by Michelin Guide Tokyo 2019.