Mizuki Tempura Review: New Paradigm of Tempura

Mizuki, Tempura



During our trip along Japan’s Golden Route, we capped off our stay in Japan at the Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto. One of the reasons we were so excited to stay here was because of Mizuki, its on-site Japanese restaurant serving kaiseki, sushi, teppan, and tempura.

Wagyu beef wrapped in shiso leaf tempura topped with fresh wasabi.

The tempura restaurant within Mizuki is especially notable, as it was recently awarded a Michelin star.

Mizuki restaurant signage

Mizuki is located on floor B1, one level below the main floor where you enter and find the check-in desk. Guests will be able to get to the restaurant from the stairs in the lobby or via the elevators situated on the far side of the front desk.

Stairs going down leading to a grand piano and Mizuki restaurant which is on the right.

Once inside, you’ll be greeted with table seating placed along the width of the restaurant. In front of you is the dedicated sushi bar where you can watch the sushi chefs up close and personal preparing delicate fresh sushi.

Mizuki main dining area with square tables and a long sushi bar in the distance with soft lighting and dark tiles.

The tempura section of the restaurant is a much more private and discreet area. It’s down the left, and only seats 8 diners. If you were looking to get a seat, I’d highly recommend to make your reservations in advance.

Bar seating counter with chef Takashi-sama behind the counter with two large smoke hoods and black and silver decor.

When we arrived for our 18:00 reservation, there was another couple already seated and enjoying their fragrant and sizzling tempura. It was a fantastic teaser for what was to come. For our meal we opted for the NAKASUMI menu at ¥22,770 (~$210 CAD, $156 USD) per person. You can also select the ROKA menu at ¥30,300 (~280 CAD, $210 USD) per person, ROKA will contain a few more dishes which includes a caviar course.

In This Review

Tempura Mizuki

Our celebration of tempura started with ohitashi – an amuse bouche of scallops, bonito flakes, and blanched greens in a little bit of dashi.

Ohitashi - an amuse bouche of scallops, bonito flakes, and vegetables.

Then, Takashi-sama walked us through the menu along with the platter of fresh ingredients that he’ll be preparing for us. Seeing all the raw ingredients presented up close was a really nice touch. It’s worth noting that Takashi-sama drew this menu! He would draw the ingredients and menu art by hand and then scan them into digital print, what an artist!

Square plate showcasing all of the raw ingredients for the tempura meal with mushrooms, shimp, wagyu, scallops, fish, lotus root, and more.

Unlike most tempura served outside Japan, here it isn’t recommended to dunk the tempura into a bowl of sweet soy sauce. Rather, Takashi-sama would prepare the sauce to pair with a specific course, or he would instruct which of the three salts to eat the tempura with.

Hand drawn menu showcasing the ingredients during that will be made into tempura.

More importantly, throughout these tempura pictures, take a look at how light the outside batter of the tempura is. It’s a very translucent glaze of tempura that adds an extra layer of crispy battered goodness with a hint of oil. It’s not thickly battered to the point of being opaque, like the tempura that you’ll see elsewhere. And it isn’t heavy or dripping in oil and grease.

Our first tempura dish was the highly anticipated tiger-prawn. It was served in two sections, one for the head, and one for the body and tail. It was absolutely scrumptious. The head was light, crunchy, and flavourful almost like fancy fries. There was no part that felt chewy or tough, the whole thing was as light as a crisp.

Head of tiger-prawn tempura.

The rest of the prawn was fresh and satisfying meaty. The tail was the perfect complement to round out the first dish. This is one of the largest tiger prawns I’ve ever seen, and it was prepared perfectly.

Body of tiger prawn tempura.

Next came the lotus root. I normally don’t really root vegetables outside of yams and potatoes; however, this lotus root changed my mind. I was surprised at how good the lotus root tempura tasted. It was lightly sweet, with a hint of earthy flavour. It wasn’t undercooked and overly crunchy, nor was it overcooked and soft. Brilliant!

Lotus root tempura.

Following the lotus root, we took a short pause from fried stuff with a spoonful of uni and wasabi in dashi. Uni is already sublime on its own, and this elevated it even more. It wasn’t briny at all and the small bite of uni was like a balloon bursting with flavour. The freshly shredded wasabi and dashi broth only added to my enjoyment of the dish.

Spoon filled with uni and dashi, topped with wasabi.

After the exquisite uni, we were served two slices of barracuda tempura along with a little bit of soy sauce and minced garlic. This would be my first time eating barracuda and again I found that the tempura serving method not only preserved the flavours of the fish, but the lightly battered exterior of the fish made it more approachable compared to sashimi. The barracuda tasted rich, substantial, and savoury.

Barracuda tempura with dipping sauce.

After the first fish dish, we had a little break with tempura ginkgo nuts. It wasn’t as mind-blowing as the other dishes so far, but I was impressed with the sheer variety of dishes that the chef was able to craft into tempura.

I’ve never eaten a fresh ginkgo nut before, never mind fried. Medicinal dried ginkgo nuts taste bitter to me so I was apprehensive about eating these. But I was surprised by how sweet it tasted. They have an amazing texture, with a slightly soft and sticky bite despite being overall quite firm.

Ginkgo nuts tempura.

Following the ginkgo nuts was the highlight of the entire service for me. It was two pieces of wagyu beef wrapped in a shiso leaf and lightly fried. You can see just how light the tempura batter is on the leaf and the wagyu was perfectly cooked to a medium rare.

I also happen to love wasabi, so having been offered a big heap of real wasabi, I eagerly put it on my two pieces of wagyu to enjoy. It tasted even better than it looked. The wagyu, as you would expect, is melt-in-your-mouth, full of flavour and juicy goodness.

Wagyu beef wrapped in shiso leaf tempura topped with fresh wasabi.

The shiso leaf offered the perfect contrast. While the wagyu was oily, fatty, and rich, the shiso brought herbal freshness and a hint of bitterness to help combat the sheer richness of the wagyu. The thin layer of tempura batter added a final hit of crunch and the wasabi topped it off with a mild wasabi flavour throughout the dish. Divine!

With the wagyu tempura still on my mind, it was time for the next dish. It was going to be a break from tempura with a seafood salad-esque dish featuring fresh vegetables and fish. I presume this was to help give you a break from the wagyu tempura. I enjoyed this fresh medley of vegetables before getting ready for another round of tempura.

Seafood salad with vegetables and fish.

After the salad, we were served two pieces of Kisu Garfish. I’ve never had this type of fish before either and I added it as another new fish on my list. I found that Kisu was a lighter version of barracuda, the meat is lighter, more tender, and exhibits a more flakey cross section compared to the barracuda. It was also less savoury than the barracuda; however, it wasn’t any less delicious.

Kisu garfish tempura.

Amadai Tilefish was up next, and I would be adding yet another new fish to my palette. Again the tempura preparation was perfect. The Amadai tilefish tasted sweeter than both the barracuda and Kisu garfish, with a firm texture, but isn’t as meaty as barracuda. At this point I was surprised at the seemingly minute differences between the fish tempuras. With something as heavy as oil and batter, I was expecting different types of fish to taste almost similar as the flavour would be masked by the batter. That wasn’t the case and it really put the skills of Takashi-sama on display.

Amadai tilefish tempura.

Following a few fish dishes, we were served Myoga tempura, which is a type of Japanese ginger. At Mizuki, our palate never felt bored. Not only was each individual dish scintillating, the menu is intricately planned so guests are taken on a culinary journey guided by the chef. Japanese Myoga tempura leaves a subtle and refreshing taste lingering in the mouth without being too intense like regular ginger. Myoga also has a fantastic texture, showcasing its slender roots and layers unlike regular ginger.

I was excited to try myoga but it wasn’t my thing. Not surprising since I don’t enjoy ginger. It was definitely less pungent and lighter-tasting than regular ginger, though. And the tempura batter helped make it edible. But if you like ginger, you’ll love it.

Myoga Japanese ginger tempura.

The last fish dish we had during our service was horse mackerel tempura. I noted this batter was a little thicker and more substantial than the preceding fish tempuras. The horse mackerel tasted the most bold out of the 4, heavy in umami. It tasted as succulent as it looked.

Horse mackerel tempura.

I can’t say if I have a favourite fish out of the 4. All of them were delicious in their own unique way.

Rounding out the main courses was my runner-up pick for favourite dish of the evening. It was a Japanese rice set served with Japanese pickles, miso soup, and a shrimp tempura donburi. The shrimp donburi was the best I’ve ever had. The batter is whisper-light, revealing the plump and juicy shrimp which was perfectly cooked and tender. It was laid atop a bed of perfectly cooked Japanese sushi rice showcasing the beauty of each and every individual grain as its own symphony of sour and sweetness. I could’ve easily eaten multiple upon multiple bowls of shrimp tempura donburi.

Shrimp tempura donburi.

The meal ended with dessert which was kinako ice cream. The gold-hued dessert is made from roasted soybeans and tastes like a special vanilla ice cream.

Kinkako ice cream with a piece of chocolate.

The nutty undertones from the kinako act as the perfect complement to the rich and creamy sweetness from the ice cream. I love that Tempura Mizuki serves kinako ice cream. It’s a great way to showcase Japanese flavours throughout the entire meal, instead of opting for vanilla ice cream.


Tempura in the West is a simple, heavy, and careless dish that we’ve come to enjoy with its heavy reliance on a sweet sauce, heavy batter, and oily grease. While this is the standard at even some of the high-end restaurants in the West, Tempura Mizuki takes a completely novel approach to the art of tempura and its preparation.

Every single dish is light while maintaining the crispiness and hint of oil that adds the perfect amount of flavour to each ingredient. Tempura Mizuki has completely changed the way that I view this ever-popular format of cooking. I look forward to seeing if this standard is held at other tempura fine dining establishments in Japan.

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