Since enjoying my very first taste of Japanese cuisine last year at Wagamama, I’ve been itching to visit an independent Japanese restaurant to see how the authenticity of the food compares to that of a chain. This week I began exploring what Cardiff’s Japanese restaurants have to offer, starting at Tenkaichi Sushi and Noodle Bar, a family-run restaurant on City Road.
|Tenkaichi is one of many exotic food restaurants on City Road, Cardiff|
Established in 1999, Tenkaichi has undergone a recent revamp to celebrate its 12th birthday. The former restaurant sign has been replaced by a modern, illuminated version, giving Tenkaichi a more professional, welcoming image.
We visited on a week night and the restaurant was literally packed, with barely any spare seats in sight. We were greeted at the door by a waitress and she managed to find us somewhere to sit, but explained that we’d only have an hour and a half in which to eat. This suited us fine as we only wanted a light meal, but in future I’d definitely book ahead just in case.
The seating at Tenkaichi is just like your average sushi bar – long wooden benches and tables. Whilst this can make for quite an informal and relaxed style of dining, having to get up out of your seat whenever the guests sitting next to you want to leave the table, isn’t quite so comforting.
Knowing that we have limited time in which to eat, we place our order almost as soon as we sit down. We both order the spicy chicken ramen (£7.30), with ebi tempura (£5.30) and tamago nigiri (£2.10) to share. We only had to wait around 10-15 minutes for our food which wasn’t too bad, especially considering how busy the restaurant was.
|Spicy chicken ramen|
The spicy chicken ramen was served in a a large ceramic bowl filled with heaps of egg noodles and crunchy beansprouts with edamame, shredded carrot, spring onion, shredded cabbage and sliced chicken. Those peculiar-looking pink circles are fishcakes.The base was meant to be spicy chilli, but unfortunately it didn’t actually give off much heat and was somewhat lacking in flavour. Nevertheless, the ramen certainly made for a warming meal on a cold, windy evening and it was brimming with fresh veg and tender chicken – a lot healthier than the food I usually eat when I dine out!
The waitress noticed me struggling to eat my noodles with my chopsticks and kindly handed me some cutlery, saving me the embarrassment of having to admit I couldn’t use chopsticks and helping to ensure I actually got to eat my meal, rather than dropping it all down my front. This was a friendly gesture and it shows that Tenkaichi are attentive to the needs of their guests.
We were both very pleased with our choice of ebi tempura; king prawn coated in a traditional, light batter served with a fish-based sauce for dipping. Served hot, the batter was crisp and tasty and the juicy prawns made for a truly indulgent treat. It tasted great even without the fish sauce, but even better with it – the tiny pieces of fresh garlic helped to create extra flavour.
Our tamago nigiri consisted of two small rectangles of delicately vinegared rice topped with a layer of shredded egg, bound together by a thick strand of nori (thin toasted sheets made using seaweed, commonly used for wrapping sushi). I expected this dish to taste bland but it was actually rather moreish and, as one of the cheapest dishes on the menu, it’s definitely worth trying out if you visit Tenkaichi.
We finished our meals with plenty of time to spare and left Tenkaichi feeling pleasantly full. On the whole, we were really happy with the quality of the food and the service, whilst the value for money was even more pleasing. I noticed a sharp difference in the authenticity of the food compared to the dishes I tried at Wagamama, but it was disappointing that our main meals lacked flavour. I’d definitely return to Tenkaichi because it’s relatively cheap, local and healthy. Although I wouldn’t order the ramen again, I’d be very keen to try out Tenkaichi’s bento boxes – set meals containing a variety of dishes served in separate compartments within a lacquered box.
So, my quest to explore Cardiff’s Japanese restaurants has well and truly begun. Next week I’ll be reviewing another local Japanese restaurant and I, for one, can’t wait to find out what lies in store for me there – keep posted!
Tenkaichi Sushi and Noodle Bar
236 City Road
(029) 2048 1888
Monday to Thursday: 12.00pm – 2.30pm; 5.30pm – 11.00pm
Friday and Saturday: 12.00pm – 11.00pm
Sunday: 12.00pm – 10.30pm
I was invited to Tenkaichi as a guest and our food and drinks were complimentary.