Daikokuya, Tokyo.

May 2016.

This place was highly recommended by TripAdvisor as a hot prospect tempura spot. Like Aoi Marushin – although it was a cut above – it proved to be another fast-food-style production kitchen popping out deep-fried stuff we wouldn’t serve ordinary Canadian beach bums back home.

We finally found it after getting confounded on Googlemaps which placed the restaurant in a hardware store 300 m from its real location, and at 12:30 there was a lineup of 30 people. Mixed feelings: this could have meant it’s a great place, it’s a guidebook favourite, or everybody’s crazy. We we hung in there and it turned out it was somewhere between 1 and 2.

As lunch traffic disgorged the line accelerated as if it had had a cathartic and we were inside in about 20 minutes. Server was a middle-aged lady who wiped the table in a hurry and wanted to make very sure what we wanted. Beer and four deep-fried prawns please. You sure? Yes. Four prawns, two beer (we had already been to another alleged tempura place and really just wanted to be reassured that the standard wasn’t quite that bad).

Food arrived quickly. Again, we asked ourselves how difficult it is to dip fresh food in batter, toss it in fat of a certain temperature, wait a minute or two, and then fish it out? Tempura should be light golden brown served with a specific sauce (Japanese sweet wine called mirin with some soy sauce, and shredded daikon). That’s roughly what this was. But the pictures on the laminated card looked as they did elsewhere like something deep-fried in panko, all golden crunchy and ready to be bit through to its soft fishy centre. This missed that by a wee bit.

The prawns were perfectly cooked. But the batter was thick with too much flour and for that reason or because it hadn’t been exposed to fat at the proper temperature it reached us a little soft.

In fairness, we were out the door with the beer and four softly battered prawns for about C$35 which in this expensive city represents a bargain. But where is the compromise between fabulous and expensive Ginza Ten’Ichi and this Australian-tourist fast-food lineup and its Akasuka TripAdvisor twin Aoi Marushin?

I’m still looking. Food 7.2, service 6.2, ambience 6.5, value 7.0.

About John Sloan

John Sloan is a senior academic physician in the Department of Family Practice at the University of British Columbia, and has spent most of his 40 years' practice caring for the frail elderly in Vancouver. He is the author of "A Bitter Pill: How the Medical System is Failing the Elderly", published in 2009 by Greystone Books. His innovative primary care practice for the frail elderly has been adopted by Vancouver Coastal Health and is expanding. Dr. Sloan lectures throughout North America on care of the elderly.
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