Epicurean Review: Tenmasa in Crown Macau Hotel

So this winter break my family and I took our traditional winter trip to Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau. We dined in our usual restaurants, but this time we decided to try something new. We stayed at the Crown Hotel in Macau,a six star hotel which featured countless metal detectors, modern design, and an excellent tempura restaurant called Tenmasa. My dad heard a lot of good things about it, but I was dubious; over $60 dollars US for some vegetables and shrimp dipped in batter? I was about to be happily proven wrong.

Tenmasa was founded by Chef Masaji Hashii in the Kanda Sargakucho districk of Tokyo in 1937. Over time, Tenmasa in Tokyo became the most exclusive tempura restaurant in the city, synonymous with the celebrities, businessmen, and politicians that make up Tokyo’s socialite scene. Handed through three generations of tempura masters, Tenmasa in Macau is owned by his grandson, Yoshiaki Hashii.

We were ushered into a private room with a horseshoe table with one chef in front of a deep fryer. The room boasted a superb view of the Macau harbor and casinos and the famous Bridge of Friendship. The clean design of the room lent a comfortable cool ambiance, emulating the central restaurant in Tokyo. It combined a sleek modern design with Ozashiki (traditional full tatami) ideals. Our chef was a tempura jedi master, to say the least. He cooked the tempura in front of the patrons, using special metal chopsticks designed to sense the vibrations through the oil and food to make sure each dish was fried to perfection. At Tenmasa, the tempura is prepared in a way that coats the ingredients with a thin batter allowing the fresh ingredients to maintain their original flavor, unmarred by heavy oil and thick batter like it usually is. They are famous for using only the freshest seafood and cuts of fish usually reserved for sashimi. As I watched the chef finish up the other patrons’ orders, I could not contain my excitement. Tempura is one of my favorite picks for a quick cheap Japanese meal; I was interested in seeing if Tenmasa lived up to its hype and status as one of the premier restaurants in our six star hotel.

Bridge of Friendship

Browsing through the menu, we were given five choices: the Healthy menu ($270 hk), the Ume menu ($350 hk), the Take menu ($500 hk), the Seasonal menu ($700 hk), and the Matsu menu ($900 hk). We decided to order the Take menu, which came with an appetizer, 2 maki prawns, 2 pieces of seafood (kitsu and unagi), 4 vegetables, and 1 seasonal dish with the choice of ten don, ten bara, ten cha, and nyu men, followed by dessert. Doesn’t seem like much seeing as I was about to drop about $70 US including my beer.

However, when we got our food, I was blown away. The tempura was so light and crispy, not crunchy and heavy like most Americans are used to. It was almost as if the batter was an afterthought, a mere garnish to add to the perfect flavor of the fresh ingredients. After the main vegetable and seafood courses, we chose the ten bara, which Tenmasa is renowned for. Ten bara is a mix of salty rice and cracked kakaige fried in batter. As soon as I took a bite, I decreed it the most amazing dish of the meal. It was light but bursting with flavor, full of succulent and large pieces of shrimp all brought together with a light taste of batter. Usually I never order the kakiage; I consider the rough deep fried cobbled-together veggies and seafood a dish too heavy and tasteless for my snobby palate, so I was pleasantly surprised at how delicately our dish was made.

Now, for the rating. As with my previous review on Berkeley’s Chez Panisse, I like to rate my restaurants based on service, decor, food (both taste and presentation), and functionality. I give Tenmasa a four star rating on the Freakin’ Awesome’s five star scale. Go to Tenmasa for a nice classy lunch in an exclusive restaurant. The food is delicious, the service superb, the view breathtaking. It is a wonder that Tenmasa serves such traditionally heavy food but makes it so light that there is no trace of the oily aftertaste and subsequent food coma commonly associated with tempura. That is because the chef constantly switches the oil after every few pieces. I definitely recommend this restaurant anytime you are in Macau, as long as you got that fully loaded Visa card in your pocket.

The Good: Light, delicious food, service, view

The Bad: $$$

Freakin’ Awesome Rating: 4 stars

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