Tempura Tendon Tenya Singapore, Somerset: “The tendon’s tare sauce is worth luxuriating in your meal”

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At the thought of Japan’s latest export to our shores—I’m referring to Tempura Tendon Tenya Singapore—the recurring mention is that ‘It’s Japan’s largest tendon chain‘, ‘They automate a lot of their kitchen processes to keep quality consistent and efficient’ as well as ‘Their tendons are so cheap!’. So, I don’t need to sit here and type out everything you probably already know about Singapore’s latest food hype. But, I’m sure you want to ultimately know, ‘is it worth my time queuing?’

That is what I hope to help you solve in this article, and if you disagree with me, well, your money, your choice. Before I jump into the food, let me share with you a fun fact about tempura; if we want to be sticklers for accuracy in history, it all started with the Portuguese in the 16oos. They were in the habit of eating green beans during Lent in replacement of meat—deep-frying had been modus operandi of cooking fish in Spain and Portugal for hundreds of years.

So, how did the term ‘tempura‘ come about? It’s actually from Latin, ‘ad tempora cuaresme‘ which translates to ‘in the time of Lent’. The Japanese adopted this and boom, tempura was born. Of course today, tempura involves deep-frying more than just fish and has come to include vegetables as well.

That’s my brief history lesson for today, but before you decide to give up reading this piece, best that I move on to what matters most.

What I tried

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Let’s begin with the basics; the Chawanmushi (S$2.50) is impressively inexpensive—I have to get that off my chest. On first whiff, there wasn’t an overt or off-putting eggy aroma, but it did hold itself together well, even with a gratifying jiggle. I wouldn’t go so far as to praise this rendition, but I have to ask anyone here, do you eat the morsel of chicken found in every chawanmushi? Or reject it completely?

I made a comment that I find it perplexing that there’s always a token marble of chicken at the bottom of every chawanmushi, which, in my opinion, simply doesn’t belong. In my mind, the result is a pungent, almost stale combination which honestly warrants me not finishing the already-tiny portion.

However, I’m not about to police how everyone should consume their chawanmushi, so let’s not dwell on this matter.

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For those partial to udon or soba—especially if you’re accompanying a tempura fanatic to this highly-lauded place—they have the options of Cold/Hot Soba and Cold/Hot Udon sets, which come accompanied by a variety of tempura options like Seafood Tempura, Mushroom Vegetables Tempura, and Prawn Tempura (from S$11.90 to S$17.30 per set). Seeing as there were limited mouths to feed at the table, I only tried a mouthful of each variation.

Out of all four, the Hot Soba gets my vote, with a broth that’s made with a mixture of Tenya-exclusive tsuyu dipping sauce (selected katsuobushi simmered from bonito flakes, giving a rich flavour with an
elegant and mild taste), and filtered water. The flavours proved to be more robust than the cold version, and the chew of the soba felt more delightful than in cold dip (where I felt they were gummier).

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But let’s not dally and get to the crux of this assessment; the tendon. I wanted to try the most worth-it bowl, so naturally, I gravitated towards the Seafood Tendon (S$12.90 for a la carte, S$14.90 for set meal). It’s the best of both worlds and features tempura prawn, anago (saltwater eel), scallop, redfish, pumpkin and local French beans.

I won’t wax lyrical about how crisp the tempura batter is, or how plump the seafood is because, let’s face it, guys, it’s bloody good. It’s served warm and there’s little doubt that 9/10 times you visit here, the standard will remain. But I do, however, have to highlight the impressive tare sauce—you know that oozy, sticky glaze that’s drizzled all over the tendon bowl?

In the kitchen, the tare sauce is kept at a constant temperature of 29°C to 31°C. It’s also monitored for its viscosity using a refractometer. The sauce is tested every three hours to ensure it is at its optimum at all times. That’s how insanely strict Tempura Tendon Tenya is about their tare sauce.

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For the extra curious, the tare sauce was designed through arduous R&D, but to cut a long story short, soya sauce from Noda city of Chiba prefecture is mixed with a dashi base, which is made with bonito flakes from Kagoshima Prefecture and Yaizu city. The dashi also contains dried sardines produced in the Kyushu region.

The soy sauce and dashi are blended carefully, with a magical touch of grilled eel essence for unparalleled umami and smokiness that’s hard to find elsewhere. Now that I’ve spilt the beans about what makes Tenya’s tendon bowls so unique, let’s hope you take the time to luxuriate in your meal when you’re there.

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In true sweet-tooth fashion, I highly suggest you try to make room for their Hokkaido Soft Serve (S$2). Why? Because for only S$2, its size can even be split between two people and its impeccable silky, creamy texture works like a soothing balm to all the hearty food you ingested earlier.

Final thoughts

My visit to Tempura Tendon Tenya was much like catching up with an old friend; it’d been a long time since I’d had a bowl of tendon—although I really am quite fond of it—and this meal was a great way to rekindle that lost friendship. I’d almost forgotten how this humble bowl could make me sincerely content.

I believe the queues to this praised place will be relentless, and with good reason. But, good news for those who aren’t able to grab a table; take-away is available (but not delivery). Once the crowd moves past this trend and jumps on the next, I will return. In the meantime, I’ll stare adoringly at others’ photos of their meals there and wait patiently till I get to meet my (new) friend again.

Expected Damage: S$10 – S$20 per pax

Price: $

Our Rating: 5 / 5

Tempura Tendon Tenya Singapore

181 Orchard Road, Orchard Central, #B1-01 , Singapore 238896

Price
Our Rating 5/5

Tempura Tendon Tenya Singapore

181 Orchard Road, Orchard Central, #B1-01 , Singapore 238896

Operating Hours: 11am - 10pm (Daily)

Operating Hours: 11am - 10pm (Daily)
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