Extraordinary Lunch at Tempura Matsui

Tempura Matsui is a Japanese restaurant focusing on tempura (fried vegetables and seafood). The small, 20-seat restaurant is located in Murray Hill, hidden approximately 50 feet to the right of the entrance of a hotel. Tempura Matsui calls their style of making the art that is tempura “The Matsui Way” after their grand chef Mr. Matsui.

While numerous restaurants in New York City makes tempura, Matsui’s paper-thin batter gently coats the ingredients and enables the juices and subtle flavors to stand out. The lunch is a set menu, priced at 40 dollars.

I sat at the ten-seat tempura bar, right across from the two chefs and a large pan of bubbling oil.

To start, they served a plate of cold, round udon noodles accompanied by a bowl of sauce to dip. With two slurps, I inhaled the tiny amount of noodles. When dipped, the noodles hold onto the sauce, adding a nice saltiness and a bit of tang.

Next, the star of the meal: the tempura courses. Piece by piece, the chefs placed the delicately fried shrimp, fish, and vegetables onto a small block in front of me.

My favorites were the eggplant, the onion, and a fried mixture of chopped vegetables (including pumpkin, sweet-potato, and string bean). Each piece of tempura is accompanied by radish and tempura-sauce to cool down and add another layer of complexity to every bite.

Biting into the fried slice of eggplant produced a burst of juices enclosed in a thin layer of lightly-salted dough. I was shocked by how hot the interior of the eggplant was, so be cautious.

The god-father of an onion ring, the onion tempura held absolutely no greasiness. The sweet flavor of the onion worked beautifully with the crispy coating.

Lastly, I really enjoyed the fried mixture of vegetables. All veggies were cubed in precisely the same size and bound together on a bed of fried, flaky dough. The sweetness of the potato and pumpkin added to the texture of the firm cuts of string bean.

The whole special tempura experience is definitely unlike any other in NYC and worth a try.

Tempura Matsui: 222 E 39th St, New York, NY 10016