Tendon is the abbreviated form of tempura donburi, and usually features an assortment of battered and deep-fried vegetables, meats and seafood, all delicately arranged on a bed of Japanese pearl rice.
While we have seen some speciality tendon restaurants opening the last few years, there are some places out there that stand out with their unique offerings. Some give the traditional Japanese food a local spin, while others might have tempura items that aren’t so common.
For all the foodies out there who want to try something new, here’s our list of the eight best and most unique tendon eateries where you can get your fix of this oishii rice bowl in Singapore!
1. Don Meijin
Don Meijin is pretty well established. Apart from the first outlet located at Bugis+, this eatery that specialises in rice bowls is also found in Changi Airport Terminal 3 and Great World City Ramen Champion.
There’s a good reason why Don Meijin is able to resonate well with tendon lovers — it offers pretty unique local fusion tendon that taste great, at relatively affordable prices.
We had the famous Spicy Chili Crab Tendon (S$14.80) which features perfectly-fried prawns, dory fish and crabstick as well as seasonal vegetables. The star of this dish is the homemade chilli crab sauce that adds a locally-inspired spicy kick.
I liked how the chilli crab sauce actually has chunks of snow crab, which add to the texture of the dish. Not overly spicy, the sauce was a little on the salty side, but overall went well with the tendon.
I also had the Golden Salted Egg Tendon (S$16) which came with a savoury, creamy salted egg sauce. The salted egg sauce here is made by frying large amounts of curry leaves with butter and salted duck egg yolk before blending it with evaporated milk. I would have preferred it if the dish itself came with more salted egg sauce.
The ratio of rice and ingredients to the sauce was a little skewed, so the dish felt rather dry at times. I hope Don Meijin works on this as the Golden Salted Egg Tendon has a lot of potential as a bestselling item on the menu.
Don Meijin is certainly a mainstay when it comes to fusion tendon in Singapore!
2. Tempura TenTen
Located at the basement of Raffles City Shopping Centre, Tempura TenTen prides itself on its tempura and ramen.
If you love battered prawns, I have good news for you. Tempura TenTen offers a Premium King Prawn Tendon (S$19.80) which features massive battered prawns imported from Kagoshima. You can even bite into the prawn head here, which is crunchy with a savoury saltiness.
By topping up S$1, you can change the white rice to their signature Truffle Rice, which is infused with aromatic truffle oil. The truffle oil is supposed to elevate the different flavours in each dish, but I’ll reserve judgement on that for now, especially since the different ingredients and sauces already create a complex-tasting meal.
Speaking of different sauces, you have the option of Original, Spicy, or a special Yuzu Pepper sauce for every bowl ordered. I highly recommend trying out the Yuzu Pepper at least once, especially if you order the Unatendon (S$19.80) here.
The citrusy and tart sauce also adds depth to the entire meal, and pairs exceedingly well with the subtle sweetness of premium unagi imported from Kagoshima.
If you appreciate a good bowl of tendon with fresh and premium ingredients from Japan, but also would like a little variation from the standard traditional offerings, take a trip down to Tempura TenTen.
3. Nasi Coco
Nasi Coco has recently reopened within Tenderbest Makcik Market at Bedok Point, and this is where Japanese cuisine meets Malay food. The resulting dish that can only be described as a Japanese tendon crossed with a nasi lemak.
The Nasi Coco Supreme ($12.90) was filled with an assortment of seasonal vegetables, prawn, a Lava Egg and Tempura Ayam Meat Loaf. The dish also came with coconut rice, ikan bilis and roasted peanuts.
For its price, the portion was insanely huge. I also absolutely loved the rice which had an unmistakable, fragrant coconut aroma. Fluffy and soft, it paired really well with the crisp tempura crumbs.
However, the batter might not have been coated evenly, resulting in some bites being a little blander than others. Luckily, the tempura itself was rather juicy, with a diverse range of tempura items.
The special Tentsuyu Sauce also added a sharp sweetness to each bite, melding the flavours together in perfect unison.
If this isn’t my favourite tendon, it’s certainly my favourite nasi lemak. For a refreshing and local take on Japanese tendon, definitely make a pit stop at Nasi Coco!
Nasi Coco: 799 New Upper Changi Road, Bedok Point Shopping Mall, #02-01, Singapore 467351 | Tel: +65 6255 9030 | Opening Hours: 11am – 10pm (Daily) | Facebook
4. Niku Kappo
If you’ve ever been to Japan, you might have seen kappo restaurants around, where chefs would cook in front of diners. We now have our very first beef-centric kappo restaurant in Singapore, Niku Kappo, located at ION Orchard.
They offer a Niku Tendon (S$12.90) with an unusual combination of pork and chicken tempura as opposed to the regular prawn tempura.
The pork tempura was reminiscent of shabu-shabu, and had a rather delicate and light taste.
I also really liked the sweet and savoury tentsuyu sauce that I could add to the tendon as per my own liking, which really enhanced the batter that coated the pieces.
However, I also felt that the coating of batter was rather uneven, with some parts of the chicken tempura having too much batter that took away from the dining experience.
Regardless, Niku Kappo offers one the cheapest and most value-for-money tendons in town with their Niku Tendon.
5. Tempura Tsukiji Tenka
Tempura Tsukiji Tenka is part of the Japan Food Town located at the top floor of Wisma Atria.
Not only is it a speciality restaurant that focuses on serving up the best Japanese tempura, but it’s also the first restaurant opened by the world-famous Tokyo Sushi Academy in Singapore.
I had pretty high expectations for their tendon when I came down.
Tempura Tsukiji Tenka serves up their signature Unagi Tendon (S$22) which cannot be found anywhere else in Singapore. Thick chunks of unagi are lightly battered and served with a side of kakiage (chopped vegetables and seafood) tempura.
Even though the unagi here isn’t charcoal-grilled, it remains delectably succulent, tender and juicy.
In fact, given that the regular sweet basting sauce is replaced with a lighter, more subtle glaze here at Tempura Tsukiji Tenka, I personally feel that the delicate natural flavours of the unagi get to take centre stage.
I also tried the Kakiagedon (S$11.80), which I feel is an affordable alternative to some of the pricier items on the menu. While most tendon places might serve their rice bowls with a side of kakiage (chopped vegetables and seafood), the humble kakiage gets to be the star of the dish here.
On the first bite, the fragrance and sweetness of sautéed onions were very apparent. While not a big fan of onion myself, it played a very important role in the dish by complementing and elevating all the other flavours present.
The prawns mixed into the kakiage here were really flavourful. The combination of firm meat and delicate flavours showed that the prawns used at Tempura Tsukiji Tenka were fresh and not frozen. However, the Kakiagedon was a tad on the oily side and I was feeling pretty jelak by the time I was halfway through it.
If you’re a big unagi fan, love high-quality tempura or simply want to try out something new, I recommend coming down to Tempura Tsukiji Tenka!
Found within the food court of Gleneagles Hospital at Tanglin, TendonGo! serves up authentic Japanese dishes at affordable prices daily.
The tendon here is available in three sizes: Light ($8.80), Regular ($9.80), and Mega ($11.80). It features deep fried dory, shrimp, lady’s fingers, lotus root, carrot, sweet potato, and even a ramen egg.
These ingredients are sourced directly from Japanese farms to ensure their freshness, as well as to keep the cost price low.
The tempura is drizzled with a special sauce blend, which elevates the dish to another level. The key difference between the sauce here and others is the chilli extract which adds a little heat.
Combine the flavourful sauce with the airy and crispy tempura, and you get a mix of different textures instead of just crispiness.
Furthermore, TendonGo! uses ramen eggs that are marinated one night before it is served, which sets it apart from other places that might use a regular soft-boiled egg.
At this price point that’s under S$10, TendonGo! might be the most value-for-money tendon you can get anywhere in Singapore.
TendonGo!: 6A Napier Road, Gleneagles Hospital, #02-21/22, Singapore 258500 | Tel: +65 9654 8612 | Opening Hours: 7am – 10pm (Daily) | Facebook
There’s no way our list would miss out on Akimitsu at Plaza Singapura, which offers numerous types of tendon. There’s an Ebi Tendon ($17.90) for those who love their prawns and a Vegetable Tendon ($12.90) for the vegetarians.
I ordered Akimitsu’s Signature Tendon ($14.90), which comes with two prawns, one whitefish fillet, an egg, seaweed, and assorted vegetables such as eggplant, baby corn, mushrooms, lady’s finger, and asparagus. All of these make for a really wide range of ingredients you’ll be getting at a rather affordable price point.
The amount of sauce mixed into the rice here was well-balanced; neither soggy nor too salty. I would’ve preferred if the ratio of tempura ingredients to rice was more even, though.
With prawns often used as a primary ingredient in tendon, fish is sometimes an afterthought. Despite being fried and crusted in batter, the whitefish at Akimitsu remained fluffy inside. It’s also pretty sizeable, so you’ll be getting plenty of bites out of this.
For a restaurant that specialises in tempura, Akimitsu definitely does not disappoint. Seeing that the food here isn’t overly oily like some other places, make sure to come down for a filling meal that is easy on the stomach.
Akimitsu: Plaza Singapura, 68 Orchard Road, #04-65, Singapore 238839 | Tel: +65 6264 3390 | Opening Hours: 11.30am – 10pm (Daily) | Facebook
8. Kogane Yama
Conveniently located at the basement of Bugis Junction is Kogane Yama, which sets itself apart from the rest by having customisable tendon sets for maximum enjoyment.
The first step is to choose between one of four tempura options: Chicken Bowl ($13.80), Prawn Bowl ($13.80), Vegetable Bowl ($11.80), or the Mixed Bowl ($15.80), which contains ingredients from all three other tempura rice bowls.
Next, you get to pick your carbs — rice, udon or soba. For an authentic experience, you’ll have to go for the rice, but I can totally relate if you feel like having noodles.
The broth often helps negate the greasiness that can become quite uncomfortable with some tendons.
You can select your spice level too, then decide if you want to upgrade your customised rice bowl to a set for S$2. The set includes chawanmushi, miso soup as well as free-flow green tea.
At this price point, Kogane Yama is certainly somewhere I’d head to if I want a filling meal.
Kogane Yama: 200 Victoria Street, #02-50, Bugis Junction, Singapore 188021 | Opening Hours: 11am – 10pm (Sun – Thu), 11am – 11pm (Fri & Sat) | Facebook
That’s our list of some of the most unique, or simply some of the best tempura donburi you can get on our little island. Which ones are your favourite? Are there any we missed out on? Let us know!