Kondo is off the main streets of Ginza on the 9th floor of a small building. Once you exit the lift you’re greeted in the small seated waiting area with a “Noren” (half curtain) hanging infront of the entrance separating the dining area. All seating is counter seating with two counter rooms, one large counter room at the front and a smaller counter room at the back.
We were seated in the back counter room and once seated I noticed a huge extractor fan, like a metal bell, hanging above the heads of the chef and his assistant. There were two large woks full of a mix of two kinds of pure sesame oil, behind the wooden counter. The secret here is the blend of the sesame oils, although sesame oil has a strong and unique flavour, surprisingly you cannot actually taste sesame oil in any of the dishes. The left wok contained oil on high heat and was used to fry the fish and vegetables, which is thrown away after every lunch/dinner session. The right wok was used only for vegetables and was on a lower heat, used to cook the sweet potato and is re-used in the evening for the fish etc.
The tempura restaurant is renowned for their selection of vegetables, in particular the sweet potato which is their signature dish. The sweet potato can be ordered in addition to the standard set course, I would recommend going there hungry as it’s very filling. Once we put our sweet potato order in, a chunk of potato about 10cm x7cm was peeled and placed in the wok on high heat oil for a few minutes before being removed and placed in the lower heat oil for about 35 minutes, throughout the course of our meal.
The menu is omakase so there is no need to think about what else to order. We ordered a beer and then the first tempura arrived, the shell of a prawn which was crunchy and perfect with beer. Next was ebi (prawn meat) followed by a stem of asparagus lightly battered, which was delicious. Then was Kisu fish (Japanese whiting). After each dish the waiter (ladies in kimono) changed the white grease paper on our plates for a new sheet which was a nice touch.
Eating at the counter is great as you can see the chef cooking as well as ask questions about the ingredients used. The chef would dip each ingredient into the batter and then “toss” it into the burning oil with his chopsticks rather than placing it in which seemed kind of painful, as oil splashed up! He took great care in constantly sieving the oil for leftover battered flour pieces, as well as checking the correct temperature of the oil for each dish by flicking in some batter with his chopsticks, before placing in the next ingredient.
Next was green peppers battered whole! but served in half on the plate. These were delicious. This was followed by halved baby aubergines from Niigata (2.5hrs north of Tokyo). Then was anago (sea eel) from Tokyo bay. This was followed by fried lotus root, next a shitake mushroom from Iwate in Northern Japan which was one of my favourites, and then a whole shallot onion presented on a toothpick. Another favourite for me was the tempura squid served in a rectangular shape, 1cm thin which was very tender and soft. The final tempura was the sweet potato from Chiba, halved. The sweet potato was crunchy on top while soft and firm in the middle but the portion seemed so large after our tempura course it was challenging to finish.
At the end of the tempura set you are offered a small rice dish of either Ocha-Ten which is Ochazuke (steamed white rice and green tea poured on top, like a soup) with Kakiage tempura (small prawns with onion and leek mixed together in batter and fried into a round circle) placed on top or Ten-don which is tempura on steamed white rice with a sweet soy sauce. The dessert was a slice of sweet Hokkaido melon which reminded me of Jiro.
Fresh ingredients with a beautifully light batter and definitely the best array of seasonal vegetables from around Japan that I have tried at a tempura restaurant, the restaurant was awarded two Michelin stars in 2009.
Course is JPY 8,000 for lunch (not including the sweet potato) with drinks in addition.
Address: Sakaguchi Bldg., 9F, 5-5-13 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo.
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