みかわ是山居 Mikawa Zezankyo
Add: 1-3-1 Fukuzumi, Koto-ku, Tokyo
Hours: 11am-1:30pm, 5-9:30pm
Price: [lunch] 11,340 yen+ [dinner] 18,360 yen
Visited: Oct 2016
I’ve been hearing about Mikawa Zezankyo for years, and finally got to taste this legendary tempura restaurant on a recent trip to Tokyo. Chef owner Tetsuya Saotome entered the trade at the age of 14, and has been making tempura for over half a century. Along with Jiro Ono (a.k.a. the god of sushi) and Kanejiro Kanemoto (the god of eel), Tetsuya Saotome (the god of tempura) is one of the three major representatives of Edomae cuisine. On a side note, apparently Jiro Ono and Tetsuya Saotome are good friends, and often visit each other’s restaurants.
Mr. Saotome moved into this current house in 2009. The first floor is the restaurant, the 2nd and 3rd floor are exhibition spaces, and the 4th floor is where he lives. The house is filled with artworks, and even the tableware used by the guests are ceramics made by famed contemporary artisans. Fun fact: what looks like a huge hat on top of the work station is actually an exhaust modeled after the shape of the “Borsalino” hat Mr. Saotome wears when he goes out.
早乙女先生在2009年搬到了現在這座小房子，一樓是餐廳，二、三樓是客室與展覽廳，四樓是他的家。這整棟房子裏都是藝術品，連餐具也是當代名家所作的珍貴陶瓷器。下圖工作台上方長的像大帽子的吸油煙機，是按照早乙女先生平時外出時會帶的意大利品牌 “Borsalino” 黑色禮帽特別定制的，有點可愛。
Having devoted almost his entire life to tempura, Mr. Saotome has developed a most particular way to make tempura, from the coating to the frying process. Apparently he varies the coating and frying methods according to each ingredient. He may look stern while he’s busy at work, but is actually very friendly when he starts chatting.
The word “mikawa” in kanji is “三河”, an area of Nagoya in which Mr. Saotome was born. On the menu, “mikawa” is written in another form of kanji “美川”, which literally means a beautiful river, signifying Mr. Saotome’s vision to serve tempura dishes one after another, like the flow of a river, in front of his guests. For lunch, one can choose the lunch course (11,340 yen) or the omakase course (18,360 yen), the difference being that the omakase course includes uni and matsutake mushrooms.
“みかわ”（mikawa）的漢字是 “三河”，是位於名古屋的一個區域 ，也是早乙女先生的出身地。菜單上寫的則是日語發音相同的 “美川”，表達早乙女先生的意境：讓天婦羅料理如同美麗的流淌的河水一樣一品一品呈現在客人面前。我在中午到訪，有御夕食コース（11,340 日幣）和おまかせコース（18,360日幣）這兩種可以選擇，其中的不同是おまかせコース包含了海膽以及松茸這兩樣高級食材。話說，菜單上的圖示都是早乙女先生自己畫的呢。
The speed of which Mr. Saotome serves the food is fast. I hadn’t even finished the appetizers before he placed the first tempura in front of me, and I couldn’t help but feel a bit rushed to finish what’s in front of me. That said, the shrimp tempura was sublime – the exterior snow was white while the center was still translucent, the coating was light and crispy, not at all like the typical thick gooey skin found on most tempuras.
みかわ是山居的上菜速度非常快，可能是因爲中午和晚上分別有兩場訂位的關系吧。前菜還未吃完，第一道天婦羅已上桌，略感急促。這道 “車海老” 外表酥脆，蝦肉外圍雪白中間卻仍半透明，彈性和香甜都令人印象深刻。面衣輕薄而酥脆，的確顛覆了以往對于天婦羅 “油膩厚重” 的成見。
After the shrimp came a myriad of other tempura items. Mr. Saotome uses a light sesame oil to avoid an overpowering oil flavor, and complements that with cotton seed oil for a higher boiling point in order to achieve the desired frying result. He once said that he knows his ingredients better than he knows his family, and while I admire his devotion to this craft, I could’t help but feel a bit sorry for his family…
When the anago was served, Mr. Saotome used his long metal chopsticks-looking things to slice the eel into two in a sharp movement. It’s a shame I didn’t record that sound…
At the end of the meal, there is a choice of kakiage tempura, chazuke, or donburi.
Apparently Mr. Saotome has been working for 10 hours per day for the past 52 years, without taking one single day off (is that possible?!), and it was nice to finally have tried his craft. Mikawa is not difficult to reserve, simply go to their website (available in English as well) to choose your time and number of people. My only complaint is that the meal was really too rushed – I didn’t even finish the soup before the waitress handed me the bill. Hopefully your experience will be a more leisurely one.
美味歸美味，不過這頓午飯吃得實在有點趕，最後我們連湯都還沒喝完就被遞了賬單，感覺不是特別好。But anyway，能夠嘗到秉持江戶精神，每天工作10小時，52年來沒請過假的 “天婦羅之神” 料理，還是值得的。訂位倒是不難，網上 Open Table 可以直接選擇時間和人數，不需要會日語也可以輕易完成。希望你的午／晚餐比我的要更悠閒一些！
みかわ是山居 Mikawa Zezankyo