Located in the heart of the old garment district, Tenjaku’s renewed concept for Kyoto-style kaiseki offers a delightful experience. Taking on the restaurant previously owned by his grandfather, Ryo Nishioka creates a seasonal menu of tempura and kaiseki courses by adding his own touches to the traditional meal. Also an expert of Chinese teas, he curates a tasting of aromatic premium teas for a pleasant end to the evening.
Surrounded by old design houses and textile craftsmen of Nishijin, Tenjaku embraces the rich cultural traditions of the ancient capital. Originally owned by Nishioka’s grandfather, the restaurant has been a part of the community since 1963, offering traditional Kyoto-style kaiseki cuisine.
As a child, Nishioka grew up watching his grandfather in the kitchen, and knew that he someday wanted to become a chef himself. Also a hard-working student, he went on to study Economics at Keio University before taking on apprenticeships with top-class Kyoto restaurants Kodaiji Wakuden and Otagi. When Tenjaku temporarily closed in 2017 given his grandfather’s age, Nishioka felt it was time to take on his life-loing dream. He began working on renovating the space and mapping out his own culinary approach that worked with his vision. In December 2021, he reopened the restaurant with his original menu that combined old recipes with new ideas.
Keeping some of the original details like the exterior walls and the entryway, the newly renovated Tenjaku has a classic atmosphere. The beautiful wide counter, made of 1,300-year-old Bishu Hinoki wood, stretches across the dining room. Tempura courses are fried piece by piece right in front of the guests. There’s a small private room on the second floor for a more intimate setting.
A beautiful union of kaiseki and tempura
A beautiful union of kaiseki and tempura, Tenjaku’s omakase menu flows through Kyoto’s seasonal flavors. The opening hassun appetizer is a celebration of summer delicacies, served under a beautiful lantern hand-painted by his grandfather. The plate includes black edamame, marinated conger eel, sweet potato with lemon, grated radish vinegar, soft-boiled octopus, conger eel roe jelly, lantern flower with pumpkin somen and lotus roots. Tomato somen is a soothing dish. Served in a small glass bowl, cold Inaniwa noodles and ripe cherry tomatoes are topped with shaved bonito flakes and a sprinkle of black pepper. The soup is light but flavorful, made with kombu stock and tomato juice. Tiger prawn tempura is cooked in two stages. The head is fried first until crispy and then the sweet body. Both wrapped in a thin coating of fluffy batter, every bite releases more flavor. Sweetfish, a delicacy from Lake Biwa, is fried gently in the pot and served standing up as if it’s still swimming. The rich aroma is iconic of summer in Kyoto. Another local favorite is red Manganji chili pepper. Fried whole, its sweetness is deeper when fried. Tofu tempura is a Tenjaku signature, inspired by one of his grandfather’s dishes. Made using tofu from Toyoukeya, a famous tofu restaurant, the soft bean curds are draped in rich dashi broth and topped with chopped green onions and Japanese mustard. The flavor of the dashi soup is soaked into the batter, making it a satisfying dish. Mochi tempura is a playful dish, with fried mochi served on top of a sheet of seaweed, making it look like a sushi roll. Using fresh mochi made by a nearby mochi store, the pounded rice is flavored with soy sauce malt. Lotus root tempura is crispy on the surface and fluffy on the inside. Ingredients The seasonal ingredients are sourced from vendors and farmers that Nishioka has built relationships with over the years. Local produce like tofu and mochi come from local specialty stores in Kyoto. The flour used for the tempura batter comes from Tanaka Flour Milling in Fukuoka Prefecture. The flour is fine and powdery, creating a smooth texture when mixed with water. Rapeseed oil made by Yamanaka Cooking Oil helps keep the tempura light and crisp.
Unusual for a Japanese restaurant, Tenjaku specializes in serving Chinese teas at the end of the meal. The teas help wash away the oil after the heavy food, explains Nishioka, who has spent some time studying and learning about traditional Chinese teas.
Every blend of tea is prepared using traditional Chinese tea etiquette. To start, he likes to serve some cold tea to cleanse the palette. He then offers samples of more aromatic teas like Oriental Beauty and Oolong as well as rare blends like White Pu-erh tea and Lapsang Souchong.
Most of these leaves are sourced from Nakagawa Seikodo in Shiga Prefecture, which specializes in single-origin Chinese teas. The chef says he loves visiting them to discover new blends. In order to enjoy delicious tea, tea sets play an important part, he says as he points to his collection of colorful teapots and cups. Many of them are works of contemporary artists from Shiga and Tokoname.
- The price includes our booking fee of ￥8,000
- The price includes our booking fee of ￥8,000