I’ve read varying opinions on Tempura Kohaku at Suntec, the second tendon shop after Tendon Ginza Itsuki at Tanjong Pagar. [Tendon is the shortening of two words, tenpura + donburi (rice bowl)].
Some people prefer Kohaku because it has a distinct spicy sauce, and Singaporeans do like heat. Others are hardcore #TeamItsuki, after all It(suki) has a first mover’s advantage. And people are faithful to their tastebuds.
There are more options at Kohaku. (Itsuki only has 2: normal or vegetarian.) At Kohaku, there are normal, vegetarian, spicy, vegetarian spicy. You can also add on a small bowl of udon for an additional $4, but most customers don’t; it would be Carbs Central.
All three of us ordered the spicy bowl ($15), and it is glorious. The spicy sticky sauce gets better and better with each bite; the sweetness of the sauce is so addictive. The heat of the chilli is slow rising, so at first, it is only a tingle and towards the end, you can feel an enjoyable burn on the tongue.
The rice is also worth a mention: short, plump, firm, nacreous, each grain separated from the other.
Now the ingredients. Compared to Itsuki, there are more ingredients here. But I think Itsuki uses an oil that makes the ingredients more fragrant. The batter they use are different: Itsuki uses a crisper batter so the prawns remain stiff, whereas Kohaku uses a softer, breadlike batter, that is sweeter and tastier, complementing the flavors of the ingredients.
The chicken breast isn’t as well done as Itsuki. Itsuki’s chicken is tender and flavorful, but not Kohaku. However, Kohaku has a very delicious squid, cooked to a perfect chewiness. The mini maize is soooo fantastically sweet. There are also long beans, pumpkin, prawns, mushroom, and crabstick.
Which do I like better, Itsuki or Kohaku? Huccalyly said that Itsuki gave her a very shiok and ineffable satisfaction that Kohaku lacks. While I agree with her, they are both very good in their own ways. Itsuki is more savory and classic, while Kohaku is sweeter and modern. It depends on the mood you’re in.
Personally, since the the queue is forever long for Itsuki and ventilation is bad there, I’d rather go to Kohaku which was empty on a weekday at 2pm. But if all external factors are equal and it’s solely judging on the food, I’d go to Itsuki.
Including a glass of free-flow iced green tea, we each paid about $20.
3 Temasaek Boulevard, #03-310/311 Eat At Seven, Suntec City Mall Tower 1, Singapore 038983
T: +65 6333 4386
11.30am – 10pm
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.