Food Restaurants Reviews

Quite Possibly the Best Meal I’ve Ever Had

Tempura Matsui is a new NYC restaurant that focuses on the tradition of tempura at the level of fine dining.

From the website:

“We have worked tirelessly to perfect the batter, which is as thin as possible, to just coat the ingredient, and not weigh people down. Naming it “The Matsui Way” after out grand chef Mr Matsui.

A meal at Tempura Matsui begins with seasonal appetizers, the featured main course, and ends with a light dessert. Ingredients are based on time of year, seasonality and what is available from both New York and Japan. We only serve the freshest vegetables and fish.”

Both the concept and the food sounded fantastic, so as a slightly belated birthday gift to myself I decided to give them a try.

Opening appetizer of Junsai with Sea Urchin.
Opening appetizer of junsai with sea urchin.

Although conveniently located on 39th st between 2nd and 3rd, it’s easy to walk by the single door and small sign hidden at the corner of a huge apartment building (three times). Once I got my bearings and actually found my destination I entered to a small dining room mostly taken up by the bar surrounding the tempura chef, with a few booths on the opposite wall. The atmosphere felt nicely relaxed for fine dining and the staff was all extremely attentive and friendly.

Komatsuna and mushroom ohitashi, homemade sesame tofu topped with wasabi, and dashi simmered octopus sakura-ni. Excellent and wonderfully complimentary appetizers.

There is set dinner menu (which changes monthly), and all eight courses were delicious. The meal built well and I was quite full at the end without being overstuffed at any point.Each item was identified and explained, including suggestions (like which pieces of sushi didn’t need soy sauce and which of the two provided salts went best with particular pieces of tempura). I particularly adore sashimi and it was excellent.

The sashimi was incredible, particularly the sake-steeped abalone. Note: I couldn’t stop myself from eating a piece of tuna before snapping this pic.

I also love tempura and was extremely interested and excited to see what it was like at a master level. I was not disappointed.

The lightly battered, expertly fried tempura course was cooked a piece at a time and served immediately upon removal from the oil.

I was given dipping sauce with daikon radish to add, fresh lemon juice, and two salts to use for this course. Like with everything else the ingredients were of incredibly high quality, and each piece was lightly battered and fried in front of me one at a time as I was ready and served immediately. The course included shrimp heads, shrimp, king crab, two other types of fish and several vegetables.

Hamo with cucumber and plum sauce.

When the course was done I was given the option of ordering more tempura a la carte. With two courses and dessert remaining I unfortunately knew I wouldn’t have room for it. Others in the restaurant ordered more though, and it seemed it was available by the piece so you could order whatever particular things you enjoyed most.

Ten-don (shrimp kakiage tempura over rice), with akadashi miso soup and homemade pickles.

Besides having a preference for Japanese food in general, I enjoy menus like this that present a variety of foods and flavors. Everything was just right, including a nice light dessert to finish the meal.

Peach compote for dessert.

As I’m sure was exceedingly obvious long ago I thoroughly enjoyed my meal at Tempura Matsui, and the dining atmosphere, presentation, and service was just as impressive as the food. This is not the type of place I can afford to go to often, but I certainly see myself going back eventually.

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