This tempura restaurant in Roppongi (with one Michelin star in the 2013 guide) was established in 1981. It is a family run business, with Koji Kwaguchi having taken over the restaurant from his parents, who continue to work there; his father Motohiro is chef, his mother runs the front of house. Chef Motohiro Kawaguchi trained in Osaka's Yotaro before opening this independently with his wife and oldest son in Roppongi, and now has forty years of experience under his belt. A speciality of the restaurant is sea bream cooked with rice, the tempura here is Kansai style with very thin and soft batter. The room is smart, with a black lacquer counter and 16 seats arrayed around this.
Our meal began with beef sashimi from Yamagata prefecture, the beef (from the rump of the animal) wrapped around some rice, the texture soft and flavour of the beef good (15/20). I was very impressed with the quality of sea bream sashimi, prettily presented and having better texture than many sushi restaurants (16/20).
The tempura sequence started with a little prawn paste toasted "sandwich", the prawn between two layers of bread and deep fried. This was lovely, the prawn flavour excellent, a very superior toastie (15/20). The prawn tempura itself was good, though the prawns did not have quite the sweetness of some others that I have eaten (14/20). Whiting, known as kiss fish in Japan, had good flavour (14/20), and lotus root was pleasant enough (14/20).
Better was tender squid (16/20), with shiitake mushroom not as good as some I had eaten a few days earlier in Hiroshima (14/20). Aubergine tempura was fine (14/20) as was Padron pepper, ginko nuts, lotus root and onion (14/20). The sequence finished with another prawn tempura. I would say that the batter was good, but rather heavier than those used in some really top tempura restaurants that I have tried. Salt was the only condiment offered.
To enliven the traditional rice and pickles, a butterfish was presented whole on top of a bowl of rice. The chef then proceeded to fillet the fish using only a pair of chopsticks, which was impressive. The pickles seemed pretty ordinary, but the fish certainly enhanced the rice.
The meal concluded with an interesting dessert. The chef has been experimenting with making waffles using lotus root, with no flour or sugar used. Two waffles sandwiched a red bean paste with coffee, which actually worked very well (15/20). The waffles were delicate, and he showed us a jar with several other flavours such as strawberry, that he had been working on.
The owner spent some time in north London as a student, and his English was excellent. He was a very engaging character, chatting away to his customers as the food was prepared. At the end of the meal he went out on to the street himself to hail a taxi for us, a practice I cannot see catching on amongst Michelin starred chefs in the UK. The bill for the evening came to ¥29,400 for two, which works out at £95 a head, with ample beer to drink. Although objectively the tempura was not quite of the quality of some other restaurants in Japan, the very warm welcome went some way to making up for this.