Hannosuke Puts All Other Mitsuwa Tempura to Shame
It has been my long held position, and the position of Midtown Lunch, that dipping something in batter and deep frying it will always improve the original item (hot dogs I’m looking at you.) Sure, even I will draw the line at candy bars and sticks of butter- after all, I’m not a Republican. But even the most progressive of crunchy, granola bar eating vegetarian liberals will have to admit that treating vegetables to a spa-like batter treatment, followed by a hot oil bath, is the most humane death you could give to something that grows out of the ground.
So, naturally, when Grub Street announced yesterday that Tokyo tempura specialist Hannousuke was now open in the Mitsuwa Marketplace I became as excited as a… well… a fat guy who likes things that are battered and deep fried.
Hannosuke makes the decision of what to order fairly easy. There are no ala carte options, just two different versions of tendon, a Japanese rice bowl topped with assorted tempura, egg, and sauce. For $8.95 you can get the original w/ one piece of white fish filet, two shrimp, one shishito pepper, a square of nori (seaweed), and a piece of kakiage (mixed tempura) made from tiny shrimp and scallops. Or you can opt for the $12.95 Edomae Tendon, which I’m assuming is Japanese for big spender and swaps out the white fish for a whole salt water eel.
For now the tempura is cooked to order, so while we waited for ours to be fried up we decided to try a little tempura from the two other food court places that are sandwiched between Hannosuke and Santouka (the famous ramen place inside Mitsuwa.) You know… for science.
Sorry Misasa. I don’t think this is going to cut it. Did those vegetables come frozen out of a bag?
Sanuki Sandou was marginally better, behind the strength of their onion heavy vegetable kakiage. If the last time you were at Tony Roma’s you thought “gee, this onion loaf could use some other veggies mixed in”, then this piece of tempura is for you.
Seriously, though, this was just an excuse to eat more tempura. It’s not fair to compare Hannosuke to these two Mitsuwa dinosaurs, because there is no way they were going to able to compete with this…
Oh my. The standouts are probably the shishito pepper and the nori, which were both delicious. Actually, the whole thing was delicious. It’s tendon, so the the pieces that were right on top of the rice got a little mushy pretty quickly, and the kakiage didn’t really hold together (so you just ended up with random little bites of shrimp and scallop here and there) but all in all it’s hard to complain about any of it.
The whole salt water eel is pretty amazing too, although the fish in the cheaper bowl is good enough that some people won’t feel the need to cough up the extra $4.
The best touch, though, is the deep fried, soft boiled egg that comes in both bowls. In all the other tendon I’ve ever had, the egg gets mixed with the tempura and sauce in a wok, creating a tempura omelet of sorts. But this way, you get to break the egg over the top at your leisure, allowing you to savor a few extra minutes of crunchy tempura time before the whole thing turns into a deliciously soggy mess.
The particular space that Hannosuke occupies in the Mitsuwa food court has been a revolving door of different lunch options over the past years, and save for Tanaka (which was just a one week long Tsujita test kitchen) most of it has been forgettable. I think it’s safe to say that the drought ends here. Santouka is clearly the rock of the Mitsuwa food court, but it finally has a worthy neighbor.
THE + (What somebody who likes this place would say)
- This Tokyo transplant is the real deal… made to order tempura, done the right way. Count me in!
- The shishito pepper and the nori are both delicious and unique
- Whole salt water eel!? It just gets better and better.
- That runny egg is the bomb…
- … so much better than the versions of tendon where the egg is scrambled in the wok with the tempura and sauce
THE – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place)
- Not a big fan of tendon. I prefer my tempura to be served on the side so it stays super crunchy.
- I don’t like runny eggs
- I wish it was ala carte ordering instead of two already composed bowls
- Cooked to order? Once this place gets packed it’s going to take an hour to get your food.
- Eel? Japanese yam? Shishito peppers? Too weird for me. Where’s the broccoli and the string beans?!
Hannosuke (inside the Mitsuwa Food Court), 3760 South Centinela Ave. Mar Vista.