Ten-Ichi at the Imperial Hotel, Tokyo

April 11, 2010

On April 8, 2010, Linda and I arrived in Tokyo, where we had not been since 1982. Our flight from New York, scheduled for fifteen hours, arrived an hour and a half early; passport control and customs were easy; the baggage came right away; there was no heavy traffic on the drive into town; so things were working out pretty well. We stayed at the Imperial Hotel, where I had stayed in its classic old building in 1962. It is now in a modern high rise on the same spot; we had a view over Hibiya Park to the Imperial Palace. We really like this hotel for its efficiency, wide range of services, helpful staff and location. We were tired and jetlagged, but we decided to try one of the hotel’s fourteen restaurants before getting some sleep; although it was evening in Tokyo, it was morning in New York. After looking at the brochure descriptions and walking around, we chose Ten-Ichi, a small branch of famous 70-year-old tempura restaurant in the Ginza.

We were seated at one end of the counter facing the chefs and the cooking. There are also one or two tables. There were four set menus, very briefly described in the English version; in our jet-lagged condition we chose the smallest, Hana, at ¥ 7,875. Linda ordered beer and I ordered sake. They put cotton bibs on us.

There were a wide variety of ingredients laid out in pans in front of the chefs. There was a bowl of batter, which was whipped before using and remade about every twenty minutes. And, of course, there was a large pot of very hot oil. The ingredients were dipped singly or in small batches into it in small wire mesh baskets with a long handle. When done, they are placed directly on the piece of paper in front of each diner.

The appetizer was a nice little salad; we never did find out what was in it. On the left is salt for dipping the tempura with optional lemon.

The head chef, who was very friendly, knew some relevant words in English and described some of the dishes. He also told us which ones just to dip in salt and which ones to dip in the tempura sauce of grated daikon radish and light soy sauce. The first piece of tempura was the head and claws of a shrimp cooked very crisp; it was followed by the rest of the shrimp cooked much less.

These were both for salt dipping. The shrimp flavor was strong and elegant. It really burst out from the heads.

A white fish followed.


Then a mushroom.


Red snapper with a shiso leaf.

The slight bitterness of the shiso helped bring out the slightly sweet flavor of the snapper.

A salad arrived. It was not very interesting, but it helped cut the richness of the tempura. The batter was not noticably oily, but there is a certain sameness which needs to be relieved.


The other diners had by now moved on beyond the tempura phase of their meals so the chefs could concentrate on us. The pace picked up substantially. The pieces were so hot it wasn’t necessary to eat them immediately. Here we have a little fresh water fish that was somewhat bitter, two ginko nuts and a baby eggplant.

Another white fish and two little green shishito peppers.

Sort of a frittata about the diameter of an orange made from shrimp, fish and a few vegetables. This was a real seafood taste bomb to finish up the tempura.

Then came a bowl of rice with pickles and a bowl of miso soup with little black clams, both very nice.

 I had been given a cup of black tea when I finished my jar of sake; now a cup of green tea arrived also.

We were the last diners; the restaurant was cleaned up and closing; the head chef escorted us out to thank us for coming. (He was normally much smilier than in this photo).
This meal had been an excellent start to our dining in Japan; it emphasised the quality of the ingredients. I regret that we were not up to a bigger menu. We will go on to similar ones and to more elaborate ones. I plan to post my reports on them here. I hope you will enjoy the trip with us.

4 Responses to “Ten-Ichi at the Imperial Hotel, Tokyo”

  1. Laurent Says:

    Hi Linda and Michael !

    Enjoy your stay there !! What are the restaurants at the agenda ? Looking forward to the next posts 🙂


  2. Foodista Says:

    Nice trip ! For your readers too ! Enjoy !

  3. barbara V Says:

    What an interesting beginning meal with all the Tempura you were able to sample ! THANKS and keep all this fantastic culinary news coming. Barbara

  4. Brigid CLARKE Says:

    Thank You for your wonderful photographs of your adventures. I love Japanese sushi and tempura, it is great to read your post.

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