Though not originated in Japan, the Japanese has evolved tempura to the way we enjoy them today. The Japanese originally deep-fry their food without breading or batter. However, during the end of the 16th century, Portuguese missionaries living in Japan introduced a frying method of dipping food in a flour and egg mixture that was usually eaten during Lent. Over a few decades, Japan’s food stall culture (Yatai Culture) upgraded the cooking method even more to keep the delicate taste of fresh seafood by changing the batter mix. After the Meiji era, tempura was no longer considered a fast food item, but instead developed as a high-class cuisine.
Fast forward to 1989, Tenya opened in Asakusa Japan serving all kinds of tempura and became famous for its Tempura Tendon – Tempura Donburi (rice bowl) topped with their signature Dontare sauce. And in 2015, Tenya opened its first branch in the Philippines located at SM Megamall and has since expanded to several branches in Metro Manila. We visited Tenya’s SM Mall of Asia branch at MOA’s relatively new food hall called MOAEATS. The bright yellow-colored signage and clean, welcoming interior gave us good vibes that we decided to have lunch there.
To be able to maximize the variety of dishes we can try between the four of us, we decided to get their appetizer sampler as a starter. The sampler consists of four appetizers of your choice out of the eight that they have. We chose to get Agedashi Tofu, Karaage, Isobe Cheese, and Chawan Mushi and they were all fantastic. The Chawan Mushi (steamed egg) was silky and velvety, it just slides down your throat. The Isobe Cheese is an explosion of umami with mozzarella cheese wrapped in seaweed then battered and fried. The Chicken Karaage had a thin crispy skin with so tender and juicy meat that my cousin who was trying to avoid chicken became addicted to it. The Agedashi Tofu was cooked perfectly, firm on the outside yet silky soft inside.
For our main dish, we ordered their All-Star Tempura Soba, which came with a hot or cold soba, Japanese rice, and a basket of prawn, squid, salmon, kani stick, green beans, and mushroom tempura. True to the tempura cooking method, their tempura had a light batter that coats and locks in the flavor of the ingredients. Exceptional? Not really, but still better than some other restaurants that offers tempura. The tempura sauce that comes with it has a light flavorful taste perfect with the hot Japanese rice. We were a fool to think that we can enjoy tempura without rice. But then, if you really want to go without rice, they also offer ala carte tempura basket orders. For the soba that comes with the set, we ordered the cold option. Someone has told us that Tenya’s cold soba was the closest she can find here to the one she tasted in Japan, thus we had some high expectation to it. The sauce that comes with the soba was really delicious, flavorful with the right saltiness to it, but unfortunately the noodles was a bit of a disappointment. It was not cold as it should and has no bite in its texture to which we prefer.
As our aunt is a light eater, she went for a lighter and healthier fare soba set which consisted of soba (your choice of either hot or cold soba) with California Maki.
When we saw Ningyo-Yaki Sundae in the menu, we just can’t pass it up as the bear in the dessert was super cute! The bear is made from a pancake-like cake but more dense and served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream drizzled with hazelnut syrup.
If you want to experience a different style of tempura cooking, Tenya would be a good choice. They claimed to use canola oil, so it is healthy, to the least. They also use ingredients imported from Japan to assure quality and freshness.
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