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The art of making tempura

05 Mar 2020 / 14:53 H.

HIDDEN in the bustling city centre of Kuala Lumpur in a secluded corner within Platinum Park lies its best-kept secret – Tenmasa.

Tenmasa is operated by The Curate Group, founders of boutique Japanese dining concepts including Sushi Ryu, known for its omasake experience, Bar Shake, which serves handcrafted cocktails and Japanese spirits, and Sushi Den, which prides itself as KL’s only edomae sushiya above the city skyline.

The tempura bar opened its doors in November 2019 in an ‘if you know, you know’ sort of clandestine nature. Despite operating purely through word-of-mouth, reservations came flooding in within a few days.

Stepping foot into the 10-seater tempura counter, the first thing one notices is the peaceful poise of the chefs deep in focus over sterling silver cauldrons. Their hands move with such grace – patting the ingredients dry and coating them lightly in flour, before dipping them into the batter and dropping them into the oil.

Contrary to popular belief, tempura is not ‘fried food’; authentic, genuinely crafted tempura is about perfectly steamed ingredients encased in a light, crunchy batter.

It’s known that the Japanese’s staunch allegiance to eating seasonal food is unwavering. Eggplant and sea urchin is consumed in the summer; pumpkin and mackerel during autumn; daikon and pufferfish in the wintertime.

The carefully curated menu rotates quarterly according to the changing of indigenous produce seasons in Japan. Hence, at Tenmasa, all ingredients are air-flown from Japan three times a week – from the beef and seafood to the vegetables, even to the rice bran oil used for frying. The only ingredient that is locally sourced is the freshwater prawns, which are kept in a live tank in the kitchen.

This coming spring season, ranging from April to May, guests can sink their teeth into the tantalising flavours of shiso leaf, bamboo shoot, baby corn and asparagus, to name a few.

Tenmasa stays true to the art of Japanese cuisine, where frying the tempura to an impeccably crisp and light condition at precisely 180°C, as well as the splendour of plating presentation, is held in high regard, and is not taken lightly. It’s not always about relishing the finest produce a restaurant has to offer, but rather the highly codified process of Japanese plating that makes food look as food as it tastes.

Chef Masanori Iwaasa, who helms the tempura bar, learnt his craft at the highly refined Tempura Masa restaurant in Tokyo, Japan, one of the world’s leading institutions on tempura.

The lunch and dinner menus are similar in the omasake experience. Opt for the 7-course Premium Kaiseki set for a first-hand immersion into the craft to experience the very best of tempura making before your eyes.

Tenmasa’s all-encompassing menu also favours vegetarians. They can dine with peace of mind, thanks to its Vegetarian Course that includes seasonal and fresh produce sourced from Japan.

Ideally, the Lunch Bowl is perfect if you’re pressed for time, featuring Tenmasa’s Signature Tendon Bowl containing tempura, anago, enoki, asparagus, pumpkin, organic yolk served with a side of wafu salad, miso soup, pickles and sorbet to end the sumptuous meal on a sweet note.

Other à la carte tempura offerings are a blend of the innovative (A3 wagyu beef and comte cheese), the decadent (shirako with caviar, shiso leaf with uni), and the authentic (A3 wagyu beef sukiyaki style).

Tenmasa is located at Level 2, Tower 1 in Platinum Park, and opens from Monday to Saturday, from 12pm to 3pm for lunch and 6pm to 11pm for dinner.

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