Tempu is in no way a destination restaurant. It’s a six-minute schlep beside the tracks from JR Shibuya Station, and when you arrive all you’ll find is a cluttered hole-in-the-wall that fits eight at a pinch, all standing. But it’s this funky setting that makes it such a favorite with the locals — and the fact it serves great takoyaki.
Those golden-fried balls of molten dough concealing cores of rubbery octopus are out-and-out comfort food, even in their Osaka heartland. That’s where Tempu’s owner hails from and he has a killer recipe for his hometown specialty.
His classic takoyaki — just ask for the basic sōsu (sauce) version — includes crunchy fragments of tenkasu (tempura batter) along with strands of red, pickled ginger. Each serving of eight balls is liberally daubed with sweet-savory brown sauce, mayonnaise, aromatic green ao-nori seaweed and katsuobushi (bonito flakes).
He has also come up with his own original variations, such as the spicy “Kyoto Style” sauce, or his “Shio Olive,” which he tops just with olive oil and salt. When the weather’s warm you can linger outside, nursing a beer or a Nikka whiskey highball. You can also order take-out. But only if you live close by — good takoyaki must be eaten while it’s still so hot it hurts.