Mochiku is an intimate, counter seating-only tempura restaurant in a quiet part of Ginza. The food? Delicious and unpretentious, if slightly unorthodox for tempura.
Mixed tempura donburi (rice bowl). - image © Florentyna Leow
Mochiku is a small, counter seats-only restaurant that up till now, you had to know about to eat at. They have almost zero official online presence, and most customers here arrive by word of mouth rather than through media reviews or web searches. That’s a shame, because it’s a lovely place for a meal - it specializes in well-executed if slightly unorthodox tempura.
Close-up of the tempura - note how thin the batter is compared with other places. - image © Florentyna Leow
Unorthodox doesn’t mean terribly eyebrow-raising. The differences here are more along the lines of, say, arguing over how much tahini, cumin, or - gasp - butter to use when making hummus. But it is noticeably different. Unlike the light yellow, craggy, batter most of us are accustomed to, Mochiku’s tempura batter is crispy but loose and thin, and in some cases, barely there. It’s unusual, but not a bad thing - it allows the natural flavours of good ingredients to shine through.
Side dishes: simmered kabocha pumpkin and okara (tofu lees). - image © Florentyna Leow
In what he calls ‘Mochiku original style,’ 4th-generation chef Nishizawa-san also keeps a light hand with the seasoning for the tempura. No dipping sauces to be found here, though if you order the tempura set meal you’ll be given dipping salt. He drizzles on a light, salty tare after assembling the mixed tempura bowl.
A medley of side dishes, pickles, and red miso soup supplement the rice bowl, giving you all the extra salt you might want. - image © Florentyna Leow
It might taste under-seasoned at first, but you appreciate each piece more this way - the smooth, floury texture of the sweet potato; the ocean freshness of the anago (seawater eel); the crunch of lotus root; perfectly bouncy prawns; seriously juicy aubergine.
Chef Nishizawa at work. - image © Florentyna Leow
Indeed, texture is one of the primary measures of good tempura. I’ve had plenty of overcooked, rubbery tempura. Though I didn’t have a full view of the fryer from where I was seated, you can watch Nishizawa-san working - he cooked the ingredients in this mixed tempura bowl simultaneously, but took each one out at just the right time for doneness. His style of tempura isn’t my absolute favourite - I do like a little bit more batter - but the texture of each piece is spot on. Every home cook knows how challenging it is to cook different ingredients evenly.
Peeled grapes for dessert. - image © Florentyna Leow
Like all good tempura places worth their salt, eating at Mochiku won’t leave you smelling like sesame grease. Apparently, he asks for a custom blend of sesame oil from his supplier that’s heavy on the flavor but light on the smell - it wouldn’t do for his kimono-wearing customers to ruin their clothes at his restaurant. That you can engineer frying oil to do this seems like arcane magic. I did leave without a single whiff of grease on my clothes, so that’s something.
The restaurant interior. - image © Florentyna Leow
Mochiku is quiet, beautiful, and very much under the radar. It isn’t the easiest place to find, nor does it look like an ‘easy’ place for foreigners to dine at, but this shouldn’t deter you from visiting. There is now a roughly-translated English menu (courtesy of yours truly), and Nishizawa-san is a welcoming and friendly chap who I think, speaks some English. Go before everyone else does.
The entrance to Mochiku. - image © Florentyna Leow
Directions: Take Exit B6. Once you’re above ground, turn left and again into the street, heading away from the main road.
The building you’re looking for. - image © Florentyna Leow
At the end of the block, turn right and left again - another main road will be on your right. Mochiku is on the second floor of this building pictured above, marked by a discreet wooden sign.
Name in Japanese:
2F Sanraku Building, 6-5-16 Ginza, Chuo Ward, Tokyo
11:30am - 2:00pm; 5:00pm - 9:00pm
Subway: 3-minute walk from Exit B6 of Ginza Station on the Tokyo Metro Ginza, Hibiya, and Marunouchi Lines.
:: Read customer reviews of Tempura Mochiku on TripAdvisor
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