The beauty of a fervently creative city like Tokyo is what you can find in the nook and crannies if you look closely. This week we explore a little-known treasure in the city’s center: Miyagawa. This tempura joint was opened by its owner and head chef almost half a century ago, and today it still sits in its original location, just a brisk walk from Omotesando station. I chanced upon this place on a strangely stormy night in December and found it completely vacant, a silver lining if you will.
The owner, Isao Kanemasa, and his wife ushered us in from the cold rain, indicating to a row of empty seats at the tempura bar: the best seats in the house. Here, we were able to peer like children through the glass hood of the stove and watch him make his selections for omakase. There is no menu to choose from at Miyagawa because Kanemasa, with all his years of experience, knows exactly what is fresh and in season.
Kanemasa begins his day at Tsukiji fish market to talk to his sources, securing the catch of the day that remains unavailable to the public. In the presence of a man who has spent a majority of his life dedicated to the art of tempura, I have to admit I did feel like a fool attempting dip everything in tentsuyu (a tempura dip made from dashi, mirin and soy sauce). However, Kanemasa took pity on the tempura newbie that I was, and guided me to garnish my gingko nuts and winter clams with just a pinch of sea salt to bring out their natural flavours. By the time he served us fish bones there was no hesitation. Miyagawa’s tempura is served kansai style, and was noticeably lighter from tempura I’ve had before. The trick is to use sunflower or rapeseed oil to fry tempura batter, which maintains the subtle flavours of the fresh ingredients while giving the little morsels just enough crunch to satisfy the taste buds. I expected to feel a little bit like Jabba in a mawashi loincloth afterwards, but instead felt comfortably satiated, a sign of a perfectly balanced and well-crafted meal.
*Roughly ¥ 6,500 for dinner.
*Palace Aoyama 1F,
/ Words and images by Anne Berry /