Tempura is a Japanese dish of seafood or vegetables fried in batter composed of three ingredients: rice flour, ice water, and eggs. The batter is purposely runny to create a thin coating over the item being fried, allowing it to puff up during the cooking process and create an airy, crunchy shell once completed. That’s the tempura signature.
In my book this golden goodness needs to meet three important requirements: crispness, lightness and total freshness of all ingredients.
Of course even though Los Angeles is chock-full of Japanese spots that offer tempura the truth is not all are created equal. So if you find yourself craving good tempura let this be your guide to the best of the best.
Without further adieu, here are five excellent food spots (in no particular order) in L.A. where you can get the top tempura in town.
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1. Otomisan Restaurant
This place is like the Mecca for tempura fans. Order the tempura entree, and be rewarded with four shrimps and a mountain of unique vegetables that can include; bitter melon; lotus root; sweet potato; zucchini; green beans; eggplant and even plantain. The tempura are coated evenly with a crispy batter and fried just enough to maintain the integrity of the shrimps and vegetables. The meal also comes with soup, salad and rice. Pro Tip: The Boyle Heights diner is tiny, five stools and three booths to be exact. There are only two people working, so have patience, good fried things come to those who wait.
A tempura bar!? Yes it exist in Torrance at I-naba. Choose a seat at their sleek tempura bar and watch as the chef freshly fry up your order, right in front of you. The tempura is covered in a light and crispy batter served with a shio set of green tea powder, sea salt, and curry powder alongside the standard tentsuyu dipping sauce. Options can include; bamboo, shrimp, snap pea, pumpkin, scallops and squid they also offer a seasonal tempura menu. If they have uni tempura on the menu, order it! Creamy uni is wrapped in nori and fried, resulting in a crispy on the outside and gooey on the inside situation. What more could you ask for?
An import from Japan, Hannosuke has two locations in L.A. (Torrance and Mar Vista) both can be found inside Japanese Marketplace Mitsuwa. Order the tempura tendon style (served over rice) the bowl comes with your choice of protein (shrimp, eels, chicken) along with a variety of vegetables PLUS a tempura-fried poached egg to break over the rice. The bater is light and crisp and the entire bowl is drizzled in a tasty sweet sauce. Note that there will usually be a pretty decent sized line, but don’t let that deter you.
4. Marugame Monzo
Known for their creamy uni udon this Little Tokyo hot spot also serves great tempura. At Marugame Monzo you can build your own tempura plate by ordering items individually. Choose from tempura chicken, fishcake, ginger, eggplant, baby octopus, Shiso leaf and more, all can be ordered as sides to your udon. The tempura here is airy and crispy, once you start it’s hard not to keep ordering. To get the most out of your tempura visit, get the tempura udon which can come with tempura shrimp or chicken and add a Jidori style tempura egg, it’s the most popular add on for udon slurpers here.
5. Hide Sushi
Hide Sushi in Sawtelle has been serving up authentic and affordable sushi since 1979. With decades of practice they seemed to know the secret of making an ultra crispy, not greasy, and well balanced tempura. The vegetable tempura is a winner here, you can definitely tell that the produce was fresh before being fried. Oh, and it’s cash only here!
What are your go-to spots for a good batch of tempura in Los Angeles? Let us know in the comments below!