This tempura restaurant, tucked away in a covered market in central Hiroshima, opened in 1966, run by Yubuta Takashi. Seats are arrayed around a counter, with thirteen diners when full, which it was when we went for lunch. Dishes arrive at a brisk pace, and our meal was complete in around 45 minutes. They use a very old fashioned method of making sesame oil which is very time consuming and technically demanding. This involves squeezing the sesame rather than roasting it, and then they blend it with other virgin sesame oil and vegetable oil to create an oil that feels light and yet the favour deepens in the aftertaste.
An appetiser salad of mixed leaves had a prawn cocktail sauce, and there was also a quite rich miso soup with a hint of vinegar. On the side is the traditional tentsuyu dipping sauce, made from dashi and soy with radish, as well as lemon and salt for seasoning. The tempura sequence began with prawns, one plain and one coated in herbs. The batter coating was very light, the prawns fresh and cooked accurately (16/20). Pumpkin was next, then beans, quite tender squid, aubergine, ginko nut and a local mushroom. The vegetables were very good as they so often are in Japan, the beans for example having lovely flavour (at least 14/20).
A white fish had no obvious English translation but pleasantly firm texture, again the batter very light (15/20). Enoki mushrooms were wrapped in a little bundle before frying (14/20), and the tempura finished with sweetcorn, again having good flavour (15/20). A couple of slices of orange completed the meal.
The bill came to just €2,100 (a touch over £13) a head, albeit just with water to drink, which was a real bargain given the quality of the cooking. It would be a bit more in the evening, and of course the bill would be higher with beer to drink. The head chef spoke a little English, was friendly and even looked up a dictionary when there was one ingredient that he could not remember the English word for. The waitress that we had was excellent, topping up water and whisking trays in and out as diners came and left. The restaurant cannot be accessed directly by car (it is just a short distance off a side street) and when we asked about ordering a taxi she actually came out to the street with us to make sure that we got a cab successfully. What was the last time your waiter in London did that for you? Tsukuneijima was a very enjoyable place to visit, the ingredients of high quality and the cooking precise. It is almost absurdly good value.