Credit: Tenya

If you’re craving for Japanese cuisine, one of the hottest spots in town to visit now is Tempura Tendon Tenya, which has 226 stores globally. Established in 1989 and the top tendon (tempura on a bowl of rice) chain restaurant in Japan, it landed on our shores on Oct 15, and has since drawn the crowds.

In fact, we were told the average waiting time during mealtimes is about 45 minutes. The good news is that you don’t have to wait in line — simply leave your particulars and get a queue number. Is it worth the wait? Read our review below to decide.

Credit: Tenya

Tucked away in a corner at the basement of Orchard Central, the restaurant’s interiors ooze a casual and welcoming vibe with an LED display overhead that showcases ever-changing visuals. Through glass windows, you’ll also get to see the chefs using sophisticated machinery to whip up batches of crispy made-to-order tempura.

Yep, Tenya is known for its use of a patented automatic fryer, which precisely and consistently replicates professional tempura-frying techniques without the skills of an experienced chef.

This helps in cooking tempura in double-quick time (two minutes, to be exact), and in a larger quantity, making Tenya’s tendon more affordable, too. Also watch for sensor-navigated robots that’ll serve the food to your table.

Tenya Tendon. Credit: Tenya

Its signature is the Tenya Tendon ($8.50), with tempura black tiger prawn, red fish, squid, pumpkin and French beans. We had the Premium Tendon ($10.90), which gets you more tempura: two prawns, squid, kanikama (imitation crab meat), lotus root and French beans.

The lightly battered tempura, doused in a secret-recipe flour batter, is crunchy without being greasy. Tenya uses Japanese Aomori rice that’s firm, isn’t too sticky, and absorbs the sauce well. The tare sauce is especially addictive, without getting too cloying – we liberally added more to our bowl, together with the togarashi spice blend for an extra kick.

Other rice bowls include the Prawn Tendon ($11.90), Seafood Tendon ($12.90), Tori Tendon ($9.90), Mushroom Vegetables Tendon ($7.90), and Kakiage Tendon ($8.90).

Most of its ingredients are also sourced from Japan or from Japanese-owned farms in the region.

Prawn Tendon with Cold Soba Noodles. Credit: Tenya
Tori Tendon with Miso Soup. Credit: Tenya

An unexpected star of the menu (for us, at least) is the udon. Unlike regular thicker udon, the restaurant uses Inaniwa udon, which is thinner, smoother and delightfully chewy. There’s also a choice of soba which has a firm bite. You can choose these (hot or cold) as sides to go with your tendon set, or as mains with tempura.

Cold soba and udon. Credit: The Singapore Women’s Weekly

You can also order starters and sides like Tori Karaage ($4.90), Ikageso (fried squid tentacles), and a smooth and silky Chawanmushi ($2.50).

End your meal with Tenya’s Hokkaido soft serve, which comes in a cone ($2), in an IBC Root Beer Float ($4.90), with a brownie ($6.90) or with a Matcha Azuki Cake ($5.80). Made with 100 per cent Hokkaido milk, it’s creamy and rich, and interestingly enough, tastes like White Rabbit candy. We had it with the brownie — this one’s super-rich and fudgy so we’d recommend it for sharing.

Warm Brownie with Hokkaido Soft Serve Ice Cream. Credit: The Singapore Women’s Weekly

Our take? If you’re hankering for a hearty, comforting Japanese meal that comes with wallet-friendly price tags, put Tenya on your go-to list. And at their affordable prices, Tenya’s bowls sure give other tendon restaurants a run for their money. The waiting time and no-reservations policy are a slight bummer, but there are plans to open more outlets, especially in the heartlands.

Tempura Tendon Tenya is at #B1-01 Orchard Central. Visit its website for more information.