Tempura Tendon Tenya – Japan’s Number 1 Tendon Chain Restaurant from Asakusa Tokyo, popularly known as TENYA.
My friends and I were originally going to a vegetarian restaurant as one of them is a vegetarian. While out shopping a couple of days ago, I spotted Tenya at Orchard Central and checked out their food display. I noticed they had a vegetarian option and suggested to my friends to eat at Tenya instead.
I had read about Tenya coming to Singapore back in September and was planning to check them out when they open in mid-Oct. It was with much anticipation when we met up outside the store.
Our Tenya Visit
I’d told my friends, SS and KT, whoever reached first, to put us on the waiting list. I saw the crowd previously and knew we would have to wait.
We met up at 12:30pm outside Tenya on a Thursday afternoon. SS had put us on the waiting list and the service staff told us the wait would be about 30mins. He asked that we take a walk around the mall and would call us when our queue on the waiting list was coming up.
We walked around Orchard Central, Orchard Gateway and 313, window shopping and chit chatting. After 45mins, we still didn’t get a call, so we headed back to Tenya to check. There were still a few people on the waiting list before us, and the staff told us to get into a queue to wait. We had to wait another 15mins before we were shown to our table after getting our temperatures taken. We ended up waiting for an hour in total.
At that time, the service staff was informing other customers the waiting time was 45mins. I suspected it would probably be about 1.5hrs at that point, unless some people did’t return for their spot on the waiting list.
The Tenya service staff cleaned our table with sanitizer before allowing us to sit down. He then gave us little packs of Purell sanitizer gel which we thought was a nice gesture from Tenya.
Below are Tenya’s menu pages. I was happily surprised to see they offered soba, udon, several other side dishes, desserts and drinks. We could even create our own set by adding soba/udon to our Tendon. According to one of the service staff, it would cost another S$4.00 to add on a Soba/Udon to a Tendon. There was also options to have less or more rice and they would minus or add S$0.50 for that change.
Since Tenya started as a Tendon shop, I decided to go ahead with the Seafood Tendon and add on a order of Ikageso (Fried Squid Legs). SS and KT decided to switch to Cold Soba but went with the set option instead of adding it to the Tendon. SS got the Mushroom Vegetables Tempura with Cold Soba set while KT went for the Seafood Tempura with Cold Soba set. We decided to order Green Tea when we found out Tenya served it cold as well.
Free Flow of Green Tea – S$2.00/pax
We all liked the Cold Green Tea very much as it was thick and delicious. Instead the Hot Green Tea felt quite diluted. Usually it’s the other way round at most Japanese restaurants. It was very good of Tenya to allow customers to switch between Hot and Cold Green Tea during the meal at no extra charge. We had started with Cold Green Tea and later switched to Hot Green Tea as we started feeling cold where we sat; the air condition was quite strong.
Do note that this is an option, customers need not order drinks and could request for water.
Ikageso (Fried Squid Legs) – S$4.90
The Ikageso was served to our table by the little robot. It came with a slice of lime (I’m wondering if it was Sudachi or just plain lime) and a pack of Kewpie Mayonnaise.
When I first saw it, I couldn’t help comparing it with the Old Chang Kee’s (OCK) Fried Sotong Head. Tenya Ikageso had 6 pieces of Fried Squid Legs, equivalent to 2 sticks of OCK Fried Sotong Head which cost less. If based on price alone, OCK would be a cheaper option. When comparing taste, Tenya’s Ikageso was definitely the winner.
I squeezed the lime and decided to squeeze all 15ml Kewpie Mayonnaise over the Ikageso instead of into the saucer. 15ml of Kewpie Mayonnaise was a lot, and I could cover every single piece of Ikageso generously.
Tenya’s Fried Squid Legs were bigger as they likely used bigger squids compared to OCK. Tenya’s batter was light, fluffy and crunchy compared to OCK’s thick and chewier batter. The Ikageso tasted a whole lot better than OCK, worth the S$4.90 for sure.
Mushroom Vegetables Tempura with Cold Soba Set – S$11.90
SS’s order of Mushroom Vegetables Tempura with Cold Soba Set was served next. She enjoyed the soba which had a bouncy QQ texture. However, SS felt the Soba dipping sauce was too little and instead of dipping the soba, she decided to scoop out the sauce and drizzle on the tray of soba. SS liked that the vegetable tempura was cooked just nice, not too raw or overcooked. She especially like the Gold Mushroom Tempura and the Pumpkin Tempura. Even though lotus root wasn’t something she quite like, SS said it was nice too.
Seafood Tendon – S$12.90
My Seafood Tendon was served with a bowl of Miso Soup. Considering Tenya is a chain store, their Miso Soup won hands down over some other Japanese restaurants’ Miso Soup I had. There were a lot of Miso in the soup, but it didn’t make the soup salty (check the photo, I didn’t stir the soup). Instead it was a flavourful and hearty soup with a good amount of wakame (seaweed).
The Seafood Tendon didn’t have a lot of sauce on it and that turned out to be a great touch. The rice was shiny, nice texture and not drenched in sauce. It was so yummy and just nice portion to eat with the tempura. For a big eater or if one is hungry, it might be good to add on more rice. I don’t think there is need to reduce rice portion unless you’re trying to avoid carbs.
I started with the French Bean Tempura which was crunchy not just on the outside as it was not overcooked. I’m usually skeptical about fish as there was a tendency for it to be not fresh and fishy in taste. My fears were unfounded as I bit into the Red Fish Tempura. It was fluffy on the inside and crunchy where the batter did not have sauce. So fresh and tasty with just the right amount of tempura sauce on it.
That gave me high hopes for the rest of the Seafood Tempura, and I decided to try the Ebi (Prawn) Tempura next. The batter coating on the Ebi was just enough to give it a nice crunch and the Ebi was not overcooked. The best part of the Ebi Tempura was the Prawn Tail! The Prawn shell was very crunchy and super fragrant the more I chewed. It was like eating Ebi (Prawn) crackers. 😋
The Pumpkin Tempura was so soft and sweet inside, and crunchy on the outside, all 3 of us loved it. The Anago was soft, fluffy and very fresh. All the tempura had crunchy and soft parts on the outside, soft where it had sauce. I left the Scallop Tempura as the last item to eat and was glad I did so as the Scallop was so sweet! It wasn’t overcooked or undercook, but still retained its soft texture. I ate it slowly to savour the sweetness.
Seafood Tempura with Cold Soba – S$17.90
KT enjoyed her Seafood Tempura with Cold Soba. She especially liked the grated ginger and radish in the Tempura dipping sauce. KT dipped her Cold Soba into the dipping sauce and thought it was enough quantity. At first, KT didn’t eat the Prawn Tail but gave it a try after I told her how delicious it was. She agreed it was very good. Only drawback was her order took a rather long time to be served. We had to check and remind the service staff a few times.
Hokkaido Milk Soft Serve Ice Cream – S$2.00nett
We ordered the Hokkaido Milk Soft Serve Ice Cream after we finished our meal. The Ice Cream cones were served individually in a stand and were a little melty when it got to us. That was why I didn’t have time to place the cones for a better photo!
All 3 of us liked the ice cream as there was a nice milk taste with no weird aftertaste. We agreed the ice cream was a tad sweet for us, while the waffle cone was very crunchy and fragrant. The more we ate the ice cream, the more pronounced the sweetness as the waffle cone was also sweet.
For S$2.00nett a cone, it was a pretty good deal.
The Little Tenya Robot Server
The robot is programmed to navigate its way to your table. Once it reached your table, it would say something (we couldn’t catch what it said) to announce the arrival of the food. The customer had to retrieve the items from the tray and after that press the OK button on the screen. The robot would then know its job was done and return to its station.
We weren’t aware of this and didn’t noticed it at first. It’s only when I kept hearing some noises behind me that I turned around to check. I took the dishes from the tray and thought the robot could sense I was done and move away. When it didn’t move at all, I started trying a few ways to let it know. I told it “I’m done”, “You can go back”; I even waved at it, but it didn’t move at all!
I discovered there was another screen on the other side of the robot and decided to look. That’s when I realised I needed to tap on the “OK” button to let it know. A little while later, a couple at the next table also couldn’t figure out how to tell the robot which kept reminding them to take their food. They were grateful when I told them what they had to do as they were getting a little flustered.
We noticed when the service staff was available, they would serve the food from the robot. Also, if there were items on the floor, the robot would have to make many small maneuvers to navigate its way and avoid running into the items. We had to ask a couple to move their bags as the robot was having a hard time trying to get past their bags.
Tenya could put a little sign on the table to inform customers what to do when the robot served us. During our meal, at least 3 groups of customers didn’t know what to do. We were all new to it.
The service staff at the entrance seemed a little stressed out as he had to manage the waiting list and the people milling around, waiting outside the shop. He had to ensure every group was 1 metre apart and temperature taken for those entering the shop. Many times, he asked customers to walk around the mall, not wait outside the store, and wait for his call.
When your turn on the waiting list is near, the service staff would give you a call. Thus, we should assist by not hanging around and adding to his stress level. Don’t be the customers who violated social distancing rules and give the social distancing ambassador a reason to suspend Tenya’s operation.
We think they were a little shorthanded at the dining area as after asking for green tea refills, it took a long while and reminders before we got the refills. KT and I saw only 2 staff while SS said she saw 3 as she spotted another staff serving food. I peeped into the kitchen and saw quite a lot of staff working inside.
We also weren’t sure why KT’s order took such a long time as SS’s order with Cold Soba was served first before my Seafood Tendon. We had to check and remind the service staff a few times before KT got her Soba Seafood Tempura set.
We spent a total of $68.38 for 1 Seafood Tendon, 1 Seafood Tempura with Cold Soba Set, 1 Mushroom Vegetables Tempura with Cold Soba Set, 1 Ikageso (Fried Squid Legs), 3 Green Tea, 3 Hokkaido Soft Serve Ice Cream. The Hokkaido Milk Soft Serve Ice Cream was shown as $1.70 (before the service charge and GST) on the bill as we ate in. Overall, not a bad price for the amount and quality of food we had. We were all very full from the meal.
The prices at Tenya were cheaper than other Tendon restaurants in Singapore. I’d never seen any Tendon less than S$10 before, excluding those at food courts.
One thing that puzzled us were the prices for some of the Noodle sets. 🤔
SS originally intended to order the Yasai Tendon (Mushroom Vegetables Tempura Rice Bowl) which cost S$7.90. Instead, she decided to go with the Mushroom Vegetables Tempura Cold Soba set that cost S$11.90. We though the S$4.00 difference in cost was because of the Soba as informed by one of the service staff earlier.
KT went for the Seafood Tempura Cold Soba set (S$17.30) instead of the Seafood Tendon (S$12.90). We couldn’t figure out why the difference for her set was S$4.40. If she had ordered a Seafood Tendon and added on the Cold Soba, it would have only cost S$16.90. Though there would not be any Tempura dipping sauce, she would have the Miso Soup and rice which came with the Seafood Tendon. 🤔
Looking further at the menu, I noticed it was only the 2 cheapest Noodle sets that were S$4.00 difference from their respective Tendons, while the rest was S$4.40 difference. I am guessing it was just a pricing strategy and nothing to do with the portion and items that were in the Noodle set.
We signed up for the waiting list at 12:30pm; got our seats at 1:30pm; our main food was served about 2:00pm (though KT’s set was served almost 15mins later than 2 of us); we finished and paid for our meals at 3:02pm. Inevitable wait since Tenya just started and everyone wanted to try.
Food-wise, we were all very happy as the Tempura were crunchy, fresh and tasty. I liked the rice and my friends were very happy with the soba, though they wished there were more soba dipping and tempura dipping sauces. It seemed the portion given was just nice to ensure there were no leftovers/wastage and to keep prices low. I guess we could applaud Tenya for their food waste reduction efforts and low prices. The sauce on my Seafood Tendon wasn’t too sweet or overpowering. We didn’t feel thirsty after our meal. Don’t miss out on eating the Prawn Tail, you won’t regret it. 😋
We wished the Hokkaido Milk Soft Serve Ice Cream wasn’t already melting when they were served to us. Also, if it was a little bit less sweet would have been nicer too. I wondered if the sweetness was per the Japanese taste buds, and I’m hoping they would adjust the sweetness eventually.
My cousin, LL, went to Tenya for dinner 2 days before me. She like that “they didn’t drizzle too much sauce unlike the other tempura tendon shop in Suntec”. LL preferred Tenya’s sauce as it was not too sweet and felt the food was very fresh.
If you’re a strict vegetarian, do note that the vegetables are fried in the same oil as the seafood and chicken. Luckily my friend wasn’t a strict vegetarian, so she got to enjoy Tenya.
As mentioned in the Tenya Chronicle page, Tenya is a fast and casual dining chain store concept. I hope this meant there would be more Tenya stores in Singapore! Yeah for us! I’m planning to go back and have already decided what other items to try next! 😋
Put your name down on the waiting list at least an hour before your intended mealtime
Take a walk or shop around the area and wait for Tenya service staff to call you when your spot on the waiting list is coming up