Tempura Matsui: NYC’s First Tempura Omakase

I love Japanese cuisine. It may be my favorite. Besides sushi, I’m always looking for places to enjoy good yakitori, katsu, ramen, and tempura. I noticed that there aren’t many authentic tempura restaurants in New York City. That is until Tempura Matsui opened in July. It offers New York City’s very first authentic tempura omakase. I had to try it! I made a reservation a couple weeks after its opening. It is located right next to a hotel. You will see the subtle entrance with a small sign next to it.

img_5708_19844083264_o
Dinner at Tempura Matsui

Upon entering I was politely greeted by the hostess who was all smiles. She sat me towards the left side of the tempura bar. The main dining room only holds a few booths and the tempura bar. The bar seemed to accommodate up to 10 people. Be sure to request a seat at the bar and watch the tempura masters at work!

img_5710_19845803483_o
Tempura Bar

The dining area was nice and clean, pretty intimate. You don’t have to worry about that fry smell since the ventilation system above the bar seemed to do a good job ridding any smoke and smells. I was looking forward to the Head Master Chef making my meal, but he was busy with a private event in the back. (RIP Chef Matsui)

img_5714_20466716015_o
Place Setting
img_5711_20280071109_o
Napkin
img_5712_19845804113_o
Chopstick Rest

I wanted to try some sake and had the waiter suggest one for me. He suggested the Matsu No Midori. It was $25 for a carafe.

img_5716_20280072469_o
Sake Menu

The sake was nice and mild, not too dry

img_5715_20440502226_o
Cheers

The waiter asked about any allergies before starting the tasting menu and I mentioned shrimp. I also mentioned it when making the reservation and the hostess was well aware of it. I know shrimp is the star ingredient of tempura, but they did a great job substituting other seafood and shellfish.

img_5721_20440503576_o
First Course

The omakase began and the first course (Sakizuke) was Junsai with Sea Urchin. I really liked the presentation. The waiter briefly explains each dish and suggests how to eat it as well.

img_5718_20278704058_o

So what is junsai? It is the mucus covered buds found under lilies. They look like small green stems and the broth had a somewhat thick consistency, almost like aloe vera. It was topped with a nice piece of sea urchin and a dab of wasabi. I mixed it with a spoon and drank the rest straight from the cup. It was a salty savory dish.

img_5720_20466733255_o
Junsai with Sea Urchin

The second course (Zensai) soon followed. It consisted of three small dishes presented on a small bridge. Cute.

img_5722_20458004982_o
Zensai

The first small dish on the right was Komatusuna and Mushroom Ohitashi. Komatusuna is a Japanese mustard spinach and Ohitashi is a spinach salad. The spinach was boiled and marinated in a light soy with mushrooms and the flavorful broth sat at the bottom.

img_5723_20440503806_o
Komatusuna and Mushroom Ohitashi

The second dish was Tofu Skin and Edamame. Tofu skin is the thin film that forms on the liquid surface when boiling soy milk. It was served with edamame (soy beans) and some wasabi. It was interesting, I’ve never had tofu skin before. It had a silky texture. It was served in a small martini like glass and after trying a couple spoonfuls, you can pick it up and drink the rest. Milky and slightly salty with a small kick from the wasabi.

img_5724_20466734045_o
Tofu Skin

The third dish was Octopus Sakura-ni which is a simmered octopus from Hokkaido. It was firm, but not tough at all. It had a nice flavor.

img_5725_20278599110_o
Octopus

The third course was a Chawanmushi with red rice, Tai fish, and uni Ankake. Chawanmushi is a Japanese egg custard.

img_5727_20458022962_o
Third Course

It was topped with Uni Ankake. Ankake is a thick sauce and this one had sea urchin.

img_5728_20473010561_o

Underneath the ankake was red rice and Tai fish. Tai is a red sea bream. It was very tender and mixed well with the rice and egg custard. This was very good. It was a nice spin on traditional chawanmushi.

img_5731_20458023362_o
Tai Fish Underneath

Next was the sashimi course. It included Hirame, sake-steeped Abalone, and Tuna served with freshly grated wasabi. I loved the bright and simple presentation.

img_5732_20466714865_o
Sashimi Course
img_5737_20440485016_o
Soy Sauce

The hirame (fluke) was very fresh and mild.

img_5733_19844101964_o
Fluke

The Abalone was marinated in sake and covered with abalone liver sauce. I’ve had abalone before, but not with liver sauce. It didn’t have that typical liver taste at all. It was good.

img_5734_19845808503_o
Abalone with Liver Sauce

The tuna seemed to be chutoro, the medium fatty part of the tuna. Wow, it was delicious! It just melted in my mouth. So good!

img_5738_20458024932_o
Chutoro

It was time to get ready for the tempura. You’re given a bowl of tempura dipping sauce and a container of finely grated daikon radish to mix into the sauce.

img_5739_20473012591_o
Ready for Tempura

The small containers contained two different types of salt, regular sea salt and miso salt.

img_5740_20440484666_o
Salts

I used the tiny wooden spoon in each container to put a few pinches of sea salt and miso salt on the small plate provided.

img_5741_20280077229_o
Sea Salt
img_5746_19844103904_o
Salt Plate

It’s suggested to simply use lemon and salt for the seafood and the dipping sauce for the vegetables.

img_5748_20280052979_o
Lemon

After a small prep of the salts and sauce, I was ready to begin the tempura omakase!

img_5747_20458002672_o
Tempura Dipping Sauce

Now usually the first tempura course would be fried shrimp heads, but because of my supposed allergy, I was given Sea Urchin Wrapped in Tofu Skin. This was awesome because it turns out that I was given a couple items that are ordered separately for an additional cost.

20278615340_a650616467_o

The tempura batter was light and coated perfectly. The tofu skin was very crispy. After the first crunchy bite of the tofu skin, you get the warm salty softened sea urchin inside. Nice!

img_5742_20466737095_o
Sea Urchin Wrapped in Tofu Skin

It’s a good idea to give each piece a couple minutes to cool down since it is taken straight from the fryer, dabbed on paper, and presented to you. Tempura should be eaten hot, but it is very hot at first so be careful.

img_5750_19844078814_o

The second piece was okra. I found all the vegetables to be very fresh. They only use what’s in season and the menu changes seasonally. Hot and crispy. I dipped it into some of the daikon dipping sauce. So good.

img_5749_20278683348_o
Okra

img_5752_20278709508_o

The next piece was a Scallop Wrapped in Nori.

img_5753_20280051979_o
Scallop

This was great! The seaweed was nice and crispy. It went nicely with the perfectly cooked tender scallop. Dipped in some lemon and sea salt. Yum!

img_5755_20458001172_o

Following the scallop was a Cherry Tomato. This is definitely one piece to give a few minutes to cool down so you don’t burn your tongue with the scorching hot tomato juice that comes gushing out instantly on the first bite. The cherry tomato was nice and sweet.

img_5756_19844104984_o
Cherry Tomato

Throughout the night, the oil is maintained at a perfect temperature and the frying of the batter remains consistent.

img_5758_20473015581_o
Fry & Dry

img_5759_20440509476_o

The master chef fries the seafood and veggies while the other chef carefully dries it on the paper before placing in on your plate.

img_5761_20278711628_o

The next piece was King Crab. Again, the batter is so light and crispy. The King Crab was juicy and tender.

img_5760_20280080139_o
King Crab

I love mushrooms and the Maitake Mushroom was excellent.

img_5762_20466740365_o

The next piece of seafood was Sillago which is a Japanese whiting. It was very flaky and tender. It was mild in taste and the lemon juice and miso salt gave it some nice flavor.

img_5764_20466740605_o
Sillago

The fish was followed by a Japanese Ginger Sprout. It was like a sweet onion with a very mild ginger taste. This concluded the omakase.

img_5765_20440529816_o
Japanese Ginger Sprout

The waiter asked if I wanted to try anything else before moving onto the next course. I decided I wanted to try one other piece, the eel. So I switched to some beer. They have Sapporo on draft.

img_5767_20278690338_o
Sapporo

The Anago (Conger Eel) was a decent size. I had to test my chopstick cutting skills and broke it into a couple smaller pieces so it was easier to pick up.

img_5768_20278602690_o
Conger Eel

The Anago (Conger Eel) was a excellent. I had to test my chopstick cutting skills and broke it into a couple smaller pieces so it was easier to pick up.

img_5770_19844085184_o

img_5771_20280058419_o

The next course was Hamo (Pike Eel) with Cucumber and Plum Sauce.

img_5772_20458007272_o
Pike Eel with Plum Sauce

The eel is simply done. I found the plum sauce pretty tart, so this may have been my least favorite dish of the night.

img_5773_20458029852_o

The Tendon Course was next. Tendon is a bowl of steaming white rice topped with cooked meat, seafood, or vegetables. In this case, it’s usually shrimp, but I was served Squid.

img_5776_20473017871_o
Tendon Course
img_5780_20278625700_o
Squid Tempura

The squid tempura was diced in cubes and placed over the rice. At first, I actually wasn’t sure what it was. It was tender and mild, similar to a potato.

img_5777_20458006622_o

img_5781_20278600840_o

The rice bowl was served with homemade pickles and Akadashi miso soup on the side. Akadashi is a red broth.

img_5779_20440511896_o

 

img_5778_20440511566_o

The miso soup had nice-sized pieces of clams in it. I was getting full at this point. It was a good amount of food, but because the tempura batter is so light, it didn’t feel very heavy and greasy.

img_5782_19844109074_o

It was finally time for dessert – Peach Compote and Green Tea.

img_5783_20278714288_o
Dessert

The Peach Compote was soft and sweet. The syrup sort of reminded me of those canned fruit syrups. It was fine, but I actually would have preferred something cold like a sorbet after all those fried items.

20472992821_74f1db5f98_o
Peach Compote
img_5786_19844110034_o
Green Tea

Tempura Matsui was a lovely experience. The service was great and the hostess was so pleasant. The vegetables and seafood were perfectly fried with a nice light tempura batter. The sashimi was excellent too. The omakase starts at $200. I was given a couple seafood pieces that usually cost extra. So yea, the price is pretty steep. I truly believe for the price, those pieces should already be in included as well as the eel. It would seem more valuable than the cherry tomato and okra. It was still a fantastic dinner. The menu is seasonal and the items will change from time to time. I would return, but only for a special occasion.

As I got up, the chefs waved goodbye and the lovely hostess followed me outside and continued to wave goodbye until I was halfway down the street. Thank you!


Tempura Matsui
222 E 39th Street
New York, NY 10016
(212) 986-8885
Website

Tempura Matsui

Advertisements

Author: Desiree

Desired Tastes is a Food and Travel Blog written by Desiree, a food enthusiast from New Jersey who just wants to see the world and eat good food.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s