Sometimes following your hunger instincts can turn out to be a pleasant serendipity, as it played out when my travel companions and I wandered haphazardly around the vicinity of Asakusa, Tokyo after visiting the popular Sensoji Temple. We were craving tempura and came across Aoi Marushin with its inviting plastic displays of the variety of the tempura dishes they offer (yes, as weird as this sounds, the Japanese plastic replicas of food bear an uncanny 99.9% resemblance to real food and thus totally whets your appetite!)
We flipped opened the menu and saw the variety offered and this helpful pictorial explanation of how tempura is made. The menu comes with English descriptions. I know, I know, this usually screams "tourist trap!", but hey, the restaurant is located in the vicinity of the tourist-friendly Sensoji Temple after all. So we let this red herring pass and because we had a good feeling about this place, we gave it a vote of confidence and splurged on the prime tempura set.
Vote's all goo....oood. This has got to be THE best tempura we've ever tasted! The Prime Tempura set consists of Saimaki prawn (never had it before, but having tasted it, I just want more of it), sea eel, white fish and some vegetables - special mention to the eggplant (my favorite vegetable to be done tempura-style). The seafood and the vegetables were fresh and covered in just nice a layer of the crispiest, most fragrant batter (sesame oil at work here)! Light, delicious and simply lip-smacking with just a touch of the dipping soyu sauce or a squeeze of lemon or a sprinkle of salt here and there. Oishiii.... more tempura please!
And we can't resist ordering one of our favorite Japanese side dishes - Tamago, Japanese omelette. Also, delicious. Nicely done and served with garnish/topping of grated daikon (white radish).
And if the tempura doesn't fill you up. Their sushi is decent as well. All in all, a terrific meal and a terrific find! Our tab for the above three dishes added up to 5100 yen (USD 49, SGD 67), with the prime tempura set going for only 2650 yen (USD 25, SGD 35). It ain't cheap but my companions and I concur that it's money well-spent on a quality meal!
Of course, later when I'm back home and surfing online, I found posts on Aoi-Marushin and apparently it's been serving tempura for half a century already! See http://www.asakusa-e.com/shoku/a_e.htm for map, address and contact details of Aoi-Marushin or go to the restaurant's official website at http://www.aoi-marushin.co.jp/top.html for an alternative map. It shows Aoi-Marushin as only 60m from the Kaminari 雷門 (Thunder) gate of Sensoji.