Review excerpt: Tradition, craftsmanship, and understated refinement. These are attributes expected of any place serving traditional Japanese cuisine of a certain quality. When it comes to tempura, those same values are every bit as important.
Among Tokyo’s specialist restaurants, Tempura Uoshin in Nishi-Azabu may not rank in the highest echelons — after just two years in business that might be considered presumptuous. But it certainly has the gravitas and polish you’d expect from the offshoot of Totoya Uoshin, a ryoriya in Akasaka boasting more than 110 years of history, and a Michelin star to go with it.
Like the parent restaurant, Uoshin does not flaunt its presence. Tucked away on the second floor behind the hulking rear wall of Gonpachi (a Japanese gastrodome no-one has ever called modest), the decor is plain and the layout intimate — a single L-shaped scrubbed-wood counter just big enough to seat 10, with a small table at the back for four more. The feel is old-school traditional, with not a hair out of place — and absolutely no aroma of cooking oil.
Chef Shinji Miyazaki is a 27-year veteran of the tempura wok. After working two decades at Uoshin’s branch in Roppongi (now long gone), he oversaw the launch of a sister restaurant in Nihonbashi before returning to his former territory to open this branch in Nishi-Azabu.
Dressed in crisp white, he works solo, helped by a single assistant out of sight in the prep kitchen and a kimono-clad waitress. His movements are meticulous, unhurried, almost effortless, making the process of batter-frying morsels of fish or vegetables seem so simple. That is deceptive: getting it absolutely right every time requires considerable expertise.