Something new: Tempura Ichidai

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Rewind to last November, when we wrote about all the upcoming eats in Ala Moana Center’s new Ewa wing, and you’d have found us drooling in anticipation of a Japanese tempura bar named Tempura Ichidai. When we found out Wednesday that it had opened, we rushed over to get a first taste.

Tempura IchidaiWe found a choice of 10 set meals, including tempura teishoku and donburi sets, as well as a la carte tempura, appetizers and a few desserts. Tax is already included in the prices and they serve the same menu from opening to closing. How much will you pay on average? About $20 to $25 per person without appetizers, drinks or desserts.

Ichidai is brand new. It opened for a very quiet soft opening on Monday, so like all new restaurants it’s in a beta phase. They’re still working out their service style and smaller menu items, but here’s a recap of our early faves.

Tempura Ichidai Style Sashimi ($9 including tax) comes with seared slices of salmon and ahi in ponzu and topped with sliced lemon, grated daikon and negi.

Photo: Maka Kahawai
 
All teishoku (pre-set meals) come with a variety of tempura, miso soup, two small appetizers, pickles and a bowl of rice. The Ichidai Teishoku ($19 including tax) started with pieces of eggplant, shrimp and kisu (sillago), with heart of palm, snapper, chicken, kabocha (pumpkin) and green bell pepper on the way.

Photo: Thomas Obungen
 
Tempura Ichidai
They provide steaming hot sauce and daikon for your tempura dipping pleasure. Refills are available if you need more.

Photo: Thomas Obungen
Tempura Ichidai
 
Counter seating available in the front of the restaurant, with booths available along the right and left walls. You get a view of the frying stations from every seat in the house.

Photo: Maka Kahawai
 
The monkfish liver for the Ankimo Tempura ($16 including tax) is wrapped in nori before being fried to prevent scalding.

Photo: Thomas Obungen
 
Baby Scallop and Vegetable Tempura ($7 including tax) is a nest of onions, bell peppers, carrots and scallop.

Photo: Maka Kahawai
 
Tempura Ichidai also has dessert, including Banana Tempura served on a sweet azuki bean paste ($5 including tax).

Photo: Maka Kahawai
 
To close out our meal, the server brought us complimentary bites of black sugar azuki bean paste wrapped in a thin slice bread.

Photo: Maka Kahawai
 
Just like restaurants in Japan, they have plastic samples in the window of what their menu looks like so your eyes can help you decide if you want to eat at Tempura Ichidai.

Photo: Maka Kahawai
 

 

 

Grant: The ankimo and anago tempura were my favorites. The delicate ankimo, or monkfish liver, is wrapped in nori before frying to prevent scalding in the hot canola oil. Each bite is rich with briny flavor. The giant order of anago (saltwater eel) tempura, whose flavor is more subtle than unagi, was portioned into three pieces served piping hot out of the fryer. I recommend trying this without adding salt; just dip straight into the sauce.

Maka: I really appreciated all the little things that made my meal better. The tempura were served in courses, meaning each piece was served hot, freshly fried and at peak crispiness. Let’s be honest, no one wants limp and soggy tempura. Each teishoku came with an assortment of little pickled veggies to break up the fried bites. Wasabi salt and Hawaiian red salt were offered on the side to add a different flavor. They even had a not-too-sweet tempura banana dessert to keep with the theme.

Thomas: I adore tempura, so a restaurant that focuses on this often poorly executed dish is a welcome addition. I really enjoyed that the items in my teishoku set were served in three separate courses to minimize sogginess and maximize my attention span on each. I too enjoyed the anago tempura; the eel’s light, fluffy texture contrasted so well with the delicate crunch of the crust. The kabocha has an almost silken texture and the bell pepper is juicy. Word of advice: Don’t expect to smell like fresh laundry when you leave.

Tempura IchidaiTempura Ichidai
Ala Moana Center, Ewa Wing – 3rd Floor (above Jamba Juice & Ninja Sushi)
1450 Ala Moana Blvd.
Honolulu, HI 96814
Daily 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. (last call at 9:30 p.m.)