Aji WOW: Tempura Daikichi's big bowl
Aji WOW is my series of unusual Japanese food/drink reviews. 'Aji' (味) means 'flavour', and the name's also a pun on 'ajiwau' (味わう) - 'to enjoy the taste of'.
This time: Tempura Daikichi.
Tempura isn't typically seen as a 'weird' Japanese food. It's both a popular, widely-available dish, and barely Japanese at all. By all accounts, it was introduced to Japan by Spanish and/or Portuguese missionaries. And yet it's considered as standard a meal as ramen or yakisoba.
I live within reasonable walking distance of Tempura Daikichi, but I hadn't been there before. The food and atmosphere were both highly recommended.
It's an unusual place. Empty seafood shells, rocks and sand are strewn across the floor. You have to crunch your way to your table. And it's LOUD. No music, or at least none that I could hear. Just other patrons with particularly big voices.
Most of the menu at Daikichi is 'order by the item'. It's like pick'n'mix. So if you want a single piece of asparagus tempura, that's fine. 2 of this, 3 of that, fine.
Above the 'per item' list was an option that looked ominous. The 'big' Kichimori set. 35 bits of tempura for 5,000 yen. (Tax in.)
I'd heard from a friend that the big set's meant for 10 people. I don't think that's true. 3.5 pieces each is nowhere near enough, unless you're also ordering sides. There were 4 of us at the table. That meant 8-9 pieces each, at a cost of 1,250 yen per person. Now, that sounded a lot more reasonable.
So, we ordered it.
At this point, I should mention that the menu didn't list what those 35 pieces are. We went in almost completely blind. There are things you'll always get at a tempura place: prawns, at least 2 kinds of fish, lotus root, green beans, something with cheese in it. The rest was a mystery.
The bowl came out. Oh, no, wait - the first bowl came out.
It had 20 of our 35 tempura bits piled on it. Either we'd overloaded the chef, or they do this deliberately to help diners pace themselves.
If it was pacing, it didn't work on us. That first plate was demolished shortly after I took this photo. Before eating anything, we each grabbed a bowl and poured a glug of tempura dashi in. The shredded oroshi was optional, but you've got to dip no matter what.
My favourite bit, the deep fried slice of lotus root, was in that first bowl. I'd staked my claim to it when we ordered. We also got through the quail eggs, a prawn, and a lot of fish.
The second bowl arrived. It had some of the more interesting foods in it: chicken and cheese with shiso perilla, mochi cheese, a chunk of tomato, shishito peppers, more cheese. Topped off with a massive chikuwa (processed fish).
We decimated the 35-piece tempura set, drank, paid, and were out in 1 hour and 15 minutes. It felt like just enough. No rice needed. It was only after eating that we realised Tempura Daikichi also does sashimi, but that wasn't what we went for.
As we left, I turned back to see a queue stretching out and around the corner. I guess I was the only person in Osaka who didn't know about Tempura Daikichi. But now I know better. And I'll definitely be back.
Verdict: 9/10. The tempura was nice and crunchy, the floor really shouldn't be.