Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Hageten Tempura, Ginza (ハゲ天)

A bit of offbeat inspiration to work on some artsy projects made me run down to Ginza and the stationery-art megastore Itoya during lunch. While I would have been slightly under an hour getting back, I figured I couldn't pass up the opportunity to eat in a different neighborhood and just went back a little late. Walking back to the station, I passed yoshoku stalwart Rengatei - who had a line to get in and thus lost my business. Sad for them, really. Across the street was a tempura outfit, and they were awarded Grand Prize for the day, my lunch money.

Hageten's honten, since 1928, occupies a whole building in za Ginza (I realized while I was eating that they have a branch in Tokyo Station's basement, which is one of the few places down there I haven't tried, and now I realize that they have 33 branches nationwide, so I'm glad I ate at the original!.).  They maintain the Ascent to Heaven / Game of Death thing where things get more fancy as you go up floors in the building - kushiage in the basement, no-reservations sets and bowls on the ground floor, then progressively fancier styles and prices on 2 - 4.  The first floor is decorated sparsely; before I realized that there were 4 others, I couldn't understand why the sign and entrance were so grand and the room so small. It's very clean though, in that way that greasy restaurants like fry or yakniku will sometimes compensate for the food by getting everything spotless.

When you consider that a normal ten-don at a chain place like Tenya will set you back Y800, the Y1500 for this doesn't sound bad at all. A big shrimp, an option to change out the second shrimp for a strip of eel )which I took), a piece of whiting layered with shiso, a patty of small fish, and some vegetables, plus salad, pickles, soup...I didn't finish the rice, still felt a bit stuffed, but really enjoyed it. The mushroom tempura in particular was awesome. I don't like to say things like 'bursting with flavor', but it kinda was.

The only interesting feature of the dining room is this very pretty wall. It's fully covered in plexi to keep the grease from building up. That gives the place a weird temple-like feel - one art feature, but basically you concentrate on the altar where the chef fries things, and then concentrate on your vittles.


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