After a full day of sightseeing in Kyoto I had some time before my shinkansen back to Tokyo. The guidebook I was following (Lonely Planet Kyoto) recommended a few places right in the station building, in the "Eat Paradise" group of stores and restaurants on the 11th floor. One of them was Tenichi; "sublime tempura", the author promised. I was certainly up for that!
The first thing that impressed me was the service. Both the hostess and the chef (I was seated at a tempura bar, with the food being prepared right in front of me) spoke English, and were most gracious. While I love Japanese food, and really enjoy visiting the country, I am still pretty ignorant of the finer points of Japanese dining (and to be honest, many basic points as well!). No fear - at Tenichi, both the chef and the waitress not only answered all my questions, but actually volunteered some advice when they saw my consternation at unfamiliar dishes and implements.
I ordered the basic meal, with shrimp and vegetable tempura, and of course rice, soup and a few pickled vegetables. The tempura is made right in front of you, one piece at a time, so it is as hot and fresh as can be. And the guidebook was right - it was indeed sublime! The chef advised me which pieces should be dipped in the delicious sauce, and which should be salted (there was a separate salt basin on my tray for that purpose). The waitress politely pointed out an empty container for shrimp tails.
And that to me was the highlight of the meal. The food was great, but the service was truly awesome, putting me totally at ease. A meal in an unfamiliar place can be very intimidating; the folks at Tenichi made it a totally comfortable, pleasant experience.
I highly recommend it.
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