How does a restaurant serving deep fried food get awarded a Michelin star? On my latest trip to Tokyo, I was intrigued to find out. I picked Hasegawa, a 1 Michelin star restaurant, to see how high the bar can be set for fried foods in Tokyo. We know Tempura to be shrimp or vegetables dipped in a thick batter, and deep fried to a light yellow color, but what I had at Hasegawa completely changed how I looked at Tempura.
But first, lets talk about why we love fried foods so much. Almost every culture has its own version of deep-fried something. We love it for its perfectly golden exterior. We love it for the crunching sound it makes when we sink our teeth into it. And we love how our mouths water when we chew that oily goodness.
Chef Hasegawa dips his tempura in eggless batter and fries it in an original blend of oils that he thinks show-off the natural flavors of the ingredients best. This means that there is no grease and no excess chewy batter. Instead, the batter is light, crispy, and coated the ingredients enough just to wrap around it, but not enough to drown it
When we arrived at the restaurant, we were greeted with typical Japanese hospitality and were warmly welcomed into the 15 seater restaurant with a complimentary hot towel. We were then presented a wooden box filled with vegetables and seafood that were to be fried that evening.
Everything was just so simple. The ingredients were tossed in rice flour, dipped in batter, fried, sliced, and carried via Chef’s chopstick right onto our plate. We had the choice to either dip it in salt that was grounded so finely that it became powder-like, and lemon juice.
The first bite of tempura that evening was a deep-fried shrimp sandwich, which was fried until golden and fluffy.
The fried squid was so fresh and was treated correctly by being flash-fried in the oil. This technique prevents the squid from over cooking and keeps it soft.
Chef Hasegawa’s philosophy shows that you don’t need to do much in the cooking process to produce a delicious dish, as long as you have amazing ingredients, of course. That is what I understood right away from eating here.
Does this place deserve a Michelin star? Yes. The Michelin star indicates that a restaurant has done something extraordinary and Chef Hasegawa was able to do this by showing his love for fresh top-quality ingredients, frying it in his very own batter and oil, which makes his tempura unique. Attention to detail in service is also key to whether a restaurant deserves stars or not. For example, my tea was refilled before I even had to ask for another glass, and at the end of the meal, Chef Hasegawa escorted us out of the restaurant himself even when he had other guests to tend to in the restaurant. When we dine out nowadays, it’s not just about the food or the service, but the entire restaurant experience, and this one was a very memorable one.