We headed to Shay’s Filipino Cafe to try this Italian-Filipino mashup.
Tenten Japanese Tempura Is Your New Must-Try Pop-Up—But Only for a Month
Meaty morsels of seafood and veg tempura in the style of Waikīkī Yokocho’s shuttered Kaneko Hannosuke.
Joni Mitchell was right: You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.
Meaty shrimp with a tender bite, luscious golden-yolked onsen eggs and supple maitake mushrooms, all fried in a delicate batter and doused in that signature tempura sauce. These vanished when Tokyo-based Kaneko Hannosuke Tempura ceased Hawai‘i operations ahead of Waikīkī Yokocho’s pandemic-induced closure. I did not realize the shrimp tempura bowl I had in August 2019 would be my final one.
Now a new tempura shop is looking to cure our woes, if only for a limited time. Tenten Japanese Tempura House is popping up for a month at Mitsuwa Marketplace with Kaneko Hannosuke-style tempura and poke bowls. Everything from the menu photos to the items offered is almost identical to Hannosuke’s, which was Honolulu’s top dog of tempura. The only addition that makes it slightly different is the ‘ahi, hamachi and salmon poke. The unfussy menu includes four tempura bowls with a mix of vegetables ($10.98) or with your choice of kisu (a small white fish), shrimp or anago eel ($13.98 – $19.98); spicy or shoyu poke bowls in two sizes ($6.95 – $13.98) or tempura and poke combos ($3 surcharge to bowl price). All come with a cup of miso soup.
Eager to discover if these bowls can live up to hype I’ve created in my head, I drag fellow tempura fan and Frolic Hawai‘i contributor Gregg Hoshida out to International Market Place on Day One, which was Monday. After a 90-minute delay attributable to first-day jitters, we pick up our shrimp tempura bowls ($13.98) in waxy cardboard takeout boxes. As a gesture of goodwill, workers include sides of spicy ‘ahi poke for us to try. We pay at the Mitsuwa registers and get a one-hour parking validation.
Since you cannot eat on premises, the once-crispy tempura suffers from steaming in the box during transport, but oh does it deliver on flavor. In addition to four shrimp tempura, the bowl includes a shishito pepper, nori, mixed seafood kakiage tempura and a soft-boiled egg on a bed of rice. The shrimp seem slightly smaller but are just as tender as I remember, and the jammy egg yolk adds silky umami. Gregg and I agree that it’s the sauce, a thickened tsuyu made with sweet shoyu and bonito flakes, that ties this bowl together like a sash on a kimono. It’s sweet, savory and will have your chopsticks searching for every grain of rice. A cup of pickled ginger is provided to help cut through the sweetness. The fresh ‘ahi poke is surprisingly good, too. For a mayo-based sauce, it’s well balanced and mild in spice—just beware of the diced raw onions lurking inside.
The significance of renewed access to superior tempura is not lost on me. If only for a month, Tenten will be my new tempura go-to. The pop-up will remain open through March 15; depending on how popular it proves, it may extend its run. Let’s hope it’s very, very popular.