If your idea of tempura involves lukewarm, slightly limp fried clumps in the corner of a sushi lunch special bento box, consider this your tempura wake-up call.
There is plenty of good tempura in Los Angeles. But at Tempura Endo, opening Jan. 7 in Beverly Hills, it is the sole focus of the restaurant — the first U.S. outlet of owner Koichi Endo's Tempura Yasaka Endo in Kyoto Japan.
Chef Satoshi Masuda makes the batter with egg yolks, cold water (it's essential that it be hard water, or water with a high mineral content) and tempura flour. If Masuda is frying shellfish, he adds California Chardonnay to the batter. The tempura is fried in cotton seed oil, and each piece is intended to be sprinkled with one of five salts — yuzu salt, matcha salt, truffle salt, rice powder salt or sansho pepper salt. This results in a sort of deluxe serving tray presented to each diner, with small dishes for each salt.
There are three tasting menus that include multiple courses of tempura with sashimi, and various salads. The $180 menu comes with about nine courses of tempura, the $230 menu includes 11 and the $280 menu around 13. (The number of courses can change depending on product availability.)
Similar to a traditional omakase restaurant, the tempura is served as it is made, at an eight-seat bar. Masuda fries each tempura course behind the counter, under a large copper dome, wielding a pair of large metal chopsticks to dip, collect and serve every piece.
Your meal may start with a small salad of sweet potato tempura and cucumber, followed by a square of shrimp toast tempura you're meant to eat with matcha salt, and a piece of head-on prawn tempura, served with yuzu salt.
Masada makes sea urchin tempura by wrapping the briny roe in seaweed before dipping it in the hot oil; the scallop tempura involves two halves of a scallop, cooked medium rare, separated by sliver of black truffle, and served with a small dish of caviar. The kobe beef tempura is cooked until the meat is just barely beyond rare, and served with black soybean sauce and the tiniest dollop of spicy mustard.
In between courses of tempura: a yuzu granita and a brandy-flambeed sweet potato. A small dish of grated daikon serves as a palate cleanser.
And after dinner, there's a traditional Japanese matcha tea ceremony, performed by a woman in a kimono. The tea is served with sweet candies to finish the meal.
Tempura Endo will be open from 5 p.m. to midnight Monday to Saturday, and is currently taking reservations.
9777 Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills, (310) 849-2106, www.beverlyhills-endo.com.
Down with real wasabi. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @Jenn_Harris_