Ultimately light-battered various seasonal ingredients that change fixed image
2016-09-20
Ultimately light-battered variou...

Ultimately light-battered variou...

Ultimately light-battered variou...

By Aya Ota

“I’ve never had tempura like this!” – The impressed gourmet New Yorkers rave about “Tempura Matsui”. In New York where you can have all kinds of authentic foods from all over the world, Japanese food is getting more and more specialized. However, as curious as it sounds, there had not been any tempura specialty restaurants. Not only are they the pioneers, you can also say that they changed the stereotype image of tempura. Seasonal fresh ingredients from mountains to the sea are fried and coated in an extremely light batter. Matsui’s tempura doesn’t fit the image of deep fried food. It is more like “trapped in seasonal fresh taste” with skillfully combined ingredients, batter, and oil, to create a harmony. The tempura made and served from across their counter in an efficient and flawless manner was delicate and light. You see no residual oil stain left on the paper under the tempura. It even looks artistic. It is understandable why they have achieved the legendary success of winning the “New York Times Two Stars” rank and the “Michelin One Star” shortly after the opening in July of 2015.

“Tempura Matsui” opened as the fifth store by “America Ootoya Group”. This group opened their first North American store in April of 2012 in the Chelsea District of New York. Subsequently, they opened the second one in August of 2013 in Times Square, and the third one in March of 2015 in Greenwich Village, which is pretty remarkable. Additionally, in 2014, they obtained the right to operate “Robataya NY“, which is a beginning of a new venture for them. The decision to open “Tempura Matsui” came from an incidental reencountering between the late former Chairman, Hisami Mitsumori and the loved and respected late chef, Masao Matsui, who is the legendary chef, and was the chief tempura chef of the famous long-established Japanese restaurant called “Nadaman”. After retiring from a 47-year career, he decided to challenge New York with tempura after meeting Mr. Mitsumori again, and got motivated.

“It is delightful that I can feel how impressed the customers are right there in front of me! I’d like to spread the greatness of tempura more and more,” says the Head Chef, Kiyoshi Chikano. He learned closely under the late Masao Matsui, who suddenly passed away after achieving the goal of opening this New York restaurant. He came to succeed the late Matsui only in May of this year. He insists on the traditional Japanese style without making adjustments with ingredients or the way of cooking to suit the taste of American customers. He prepares the ingredients with great care before coating them with the batter and putting them in the oil. Each ingredient requires slightly different proper timing. He says, “It is impossible to explain in words. You need to be able to feel it by experiencing it repeatedly.” No wonder some say that tempura making is harder than sushi making.

To commemorate the first anniversary, the menu has been renewed. Only one omakase course was offered before, but now the following three different courses are served: “Irodori Course with 6 items that include Tenju” ($140), “Kaiseki Course with 7 items that include your choice of Tasaki - delicately seared sashimi with ponzu dipping sauce - or Ten-Soba” ($180), and “Chef’s Special Kaiseki Course with seven premium items that include sashimi and lobster tempura” ($230). Each course is unique, and regardless of the price difference, all are very satisfying.

“The numbers of both first-time customers and repeaters are increasing,” says Tomonori Takada, the President of America Ootoya Group. Tempura and other dishes can be added to your order from the a-la-carte menu. Tempura is a simple combination of ingredients, batter, and oil, and therefore it is so important to care for the right ingredients. The core ingredients are seafood, which is sent directly by air from the contracted Tsukiji market vendors in Tokyo. The seafood ingredients are so luxurious, and even fresher than sashimi. For the Chef’s Special Kaiseki Course ($230), you have a choice of Tendon, Tencha or Ten-Soba, and the soba is made in a surprisingly particular way in-house using a stone grinder.

As the eating space, there is a private VIP room and a bar in addition to the counter and the tables. The artistic tempura dishes in a sophisticated Japanese style space are presented for your excitement and ultimate surprising pleasure!


既成概念を変えた、究極の薄衣をまとった四季折々の食材たち

「こんな天婦羅は今まで食べたことがない」――ニューヨークの食通たちをうならせる名店、『天婦羅まつ井』。世界各国の本格的な食文化が味わえるニューヨークでは、日本食も専門店化が進んでいるが、興味深いことに、これまで天婦羅専門店は存在しなかった。それだけではなく、同店の天婦羅はこれまでの天婦羅の概念を変えたと言っても過言ではないだろう。極限まで薄く衣をまとわせた、四季折々の新鮮な山海の幸――まつ井の天婦羅には“油で揚げる”という表現は似合わない。食材と衣、油を見事に調和させ、旬の美味しさをそのまま“閉じこめる”という感覚だ。カウンターの内側から、一切の無駄がない美しい所作で繰り出される天婦羅は繊細で軽やか。懐紙にまったく油が染みることがなく、芸術的ですらある。2015年7月開店直後に“ニューヨークタイムズ二つ星獲得”“ミシュランひとつ星獲得”という伝説を次々打ち立てたことも、納得がいく。

『天婦羅まつ井』は、米国大戸屋グループの5店舗目として開店した。同グループは、2012年4月に北米進出1号店をニューヨークのチェルシー地区に開店後、2013年8月にタイムズスクエア店、2015年3月にはグリニッジビレッジ店と、続けざまに3店舗開店するという快進撃を成し遂げた。2014年には『炉端屋NY』の経営権も取得、新業態にも取り組んでいる。『天婦羅まつ井』の開店のきっかけは、大戸屋ホールディングス元会長、故・三森久実氏が敬愛するシェフ、故・松井雅夫氏と再会したことによる。松井氏は、日本料理の老舗『なだ万』の天婦羅チーフでもあった、伝説の天婦羅職人だ。47年のキャリアを積んで引退後、三森と意気投合し、天婦羅でニューヨークにチャレンジする事になった。

「ニューヨークのお客様の感動がストレートに伝わってくるのがうれしい。この天婦羅のすばらしさをもっと広めていきたい」と語るのは料理長・近野清史氏。ニューヨーク開店の夢を成し遂げて急逝した松井雅夫氏の愛弟子で、後継者としてこの5月に着任したばかりだ。米国人客の嗜好に合わせて食材や調理法を変えることなく、日本らしさを追及している。それぞれの素材に丁寧な下準備を施し、衣をまとわせ油にくぐらせていくが、季節や食材の状況によって、タイミングが微妙に異なるという。「言葉で説明できることではない。何度も繰り返し揚げることで、感じられること」と近野氏は続ける。天婦羅を作るのは寿司を作るより難しいと言われる所以だ。

同店では、開店一周年を迎えたことを機に、これまで1コースしか提供していなかった「おまかせ」(200ドル)を一新し、『彩りコース(天重を含む6コース、140ドル)』『懐石コース(鮮魚たたきや天蕎麦が選べる懐石7品、180ドル)』『シェフ特選コース(刺身やロブスター天婦羅が含まれる特選7品、230ドル)』の3種類を開始した。「単に値段の高い・安いではなく、それぞれのコースに個性があり、どれを頼んでも満足感がある。初来店のお客様やリピーターも増えている」と話すのは米国大戸屋グループ社長の高田知典氏。天婦羅や料理はアラカルトで追加注文もできる。天婦羅は、食材・衣・油というシンプルな組み合わせだけに、食材には格別な配慮をしている。中心となる魚介類は東京・築地の指定業者から直送され、刺身よりも鮮度が高いという贅沢さ。また、シェフ特選コース(230ドル)では、天丼、天茶または天蕎麦を選ぶことができるが、蕎麦は店内で石臼を使って蕎麦を挽くところから作るというこだわりに驚かされる。

店内にはカウンター席とテーブル席の他に、VIP用個室やバーもある。洗練された和の空間で楽しむ芸術的な天婦羅――感動と驚きを心ゆくまで堪能したい。



Tempura Matsui
222 E 39th Street
New York, NY 10016
Tel: 212-986-8885
website

Open 7 Days: 5:00pm - 10:30pm


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