Famed restaurant Akimitsu offers all tendon all the time.
The first North American location of Shitamachi Tendon Akimitsu (or Akimitsu for short) has just opened in Toronto, and whether you’re relatively new to tempura or a card-carrying tempura lover (like me), you’re in for a treat.
The restaurant was born of owner Akimitsu Tanihara’s experience as head chef for a famous Asakusa restaurant that has been specializing in tendon for more than 120 years. There, Chef Tanihara perfected the texture and flavour of his famous tempura through painstaking experimentation. Out of this work was born his signature tendon, which is short for tempura donburi (and is not to be confused with the tough, fibrous animal part of the same name!). This dish is the chief offering of the Shitamachi Tendon Akimitsu restaurant chain, which has won the King of Tempura Bowl Japan Gold Award for four consecutive years from 2014 to 2018.
It’s not hard to understand why. From the first bite it will be clear that Akimitsu’s take on tempura is something special. The Elm Street location has gone to great lengths to match the Japanese experience by importing many ingredients, including the unique mix for its light, fluffy tempura batter and the black sesame oil in which the tempura is fried to impart its distinct flavour.
That flavour is all about balance. The black sesame oil gives depth to the taste of the tempura without making it oily. The batter provides a satisfying saku saku crunch without being so heavy that it masks the underlying flavours. And the sauce (mixed in-house) enhances the taste of the tempura without drowning its flavour in too much sweetness.
I sampled the restaurant’s signature dish: the Asakusa Tendon, which features shrimp, four kinds of seafood
and assorted vegetables, all coated in Akimitsu’s light batter and served piping hot over a large bowl of rice. The seafood mix varies based on season and availability, and mine featured salmon, sea bass, herring roe and squid. Though I’m used to fish tempura, the herring roe was a pleasant surprise, and in all cases the flavour of the fish came through well. I was most impressed with the squid, which was served as a lattice of small pieces held together by batter, perfectly showcasing the taste and texture of the squid.
Akimitsu will go on to offer special menu items exclusive to the Toronto restaurant, but for now it’s featuring the classic menu from the original Tokyo restaurant. What’s more, Akimitsu has teamed up with Michelin-starred ramen shop Konjiki at the Elm Street location. Can’t decide between eating ramen or tempura? You can now visit both restaurants at this one handy location. Twice the Japanese comfort food, all in one stop!
Shitamachi Tendon Akimitsu
41 Elm St., Toronto | 416-519-6794
OPEN: Sun–Thurs 11:30 am–10 pm
Fri–Sat 11:30 am–11 pm