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What: Tempura Rice Bowl ($14.90)
Where: Akimitsu, Plaza Singapura, 04-65, 68 Orchard Rd, Singapore 238839
With so many places serving all-you-can-eat Japanese buffet, which invariably includes the deep-fried tempura fritters, it makes you wonder why there has been a recent craze for the tempura rice bowl.
Perhaps, a few new tempura eateries like Kohaku that have sprouted since last year are seen as specialists of the quintessential fried Japanese dish, whose origin could be traced to the Portuguese explorers in the past.
The latest spot to draw a long queue is Akimitsu at Plaza Singapura. It's a branch of the award-winning Shitamachi Tendon Akimitsu in Asakusa, Tokyo, the Edo-era area where tempura shops still thrive today.
The big draw is the massive Tendon bowl piled with fried prawns, fish, assorted veggies and a square of crispy seaweed over the steamed rice. The $14.90+ set includes a small chawanmushi, miso soup and a freeflow of two simple vegetable dishes stored in containers on the table - which makes it a good deal for budget-quality dining.
The tempura here offers more crunch with small lacy crispies encrusted on the first layer of batter. The golden brown hue with the additional layer of crispy bits distinguish them from some of the neater, high-end tempura using premium ingredients or the near-whitish Kyoto version.
I find it more appealing than disconcerting to discover fried grease staining the rice, which has been lightly drenched in a soy-based sauce. Doesn't some grease and sauce make rice bowls more delectable especially when you're as hungry as a bear?
When in season especially in Japan summer, the sea eel (anago) lords over the bountiful bowl, which includes two prawns, three types of fish - salmon, kisu (sillago) and shishamo (smelt), and three types of vegetable.
Also good to tackle is the regularly available Kakiage Tencha set (above), which includes condiments like wasabi and dried seaweed, plus piping hot dashi stock to enjoy the hefty round of seafood and vegetable tempura three ways. It's so big it eclipses the whole bowl.
Whether it's the Tendon or Kakiage, my tummy is floored by their formidable sizes. Either would make a more appropriate snack for guzzling Sumo wrestlers.
The writer paid for the meal reviewed