Cowabunga, after 18 months, > 12 restaurants later ... and RM2,000 poorer, I finally found a Japanese restaurant in KL that serves tempura which is worth writing home about - Tatsu at the InterContinental Hotel (sorry, Kuriya).
Tatsu's Executive Chef Tetsuya Yanagida is good - as good as any chef I'd encountered in Tokyo or Osaka. The restaurant evoked the typical retro-60s feel which many restaurants in Japan liked to maintain - simple furniture, calm & serene surroundings, clean Zen-like lines.
The seafood tempura set (RM150++ or around USD50 plus service/taxes) started off with a trio of not-very-impressive starters: a crisp salad bowl with overly-vinegary dressing, a bland tofu-carrot-daikon dish, and a steamed "chawan-mushi" which I can re-produce at home myself with good eggs, dashi stock, and bits of chicken, mushroom and fishcake.
But then, came the piece de resistance: the mixed seafood tempura set: the large prawn was bursting with flavors, the soft-shell crab extravagantly rich and meltingly delicious inside, the fish fillets, scallop - oh, what a revelation: everything was simply perfect.
There was also a small plate of salmon & tuna sashimi at the side, but that's superfluous.
The miso soup was a bit disappointing.
Still, overall, it was a superb tempura meal - at least where KL is concerned.
There is no specialist tempura restaurant in Kuala Lumpur, the likes of Ten-Ichi in Tokyo, or Singapore's Tenshin, where you sit at a counter in front of a tempura chef who coats each piece of the ingredient in batter and fry them right in front of you, before he pops the freshly crisp-fried morsel onto your plate straight from the frying pan using a pair of extra-long serving chopsticks.
But Tatsu KL is definitely worth checking out.
1st Floor, InterContinental Hotel Kuala Lumpur
165, Jalan Ampang,
50450 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Tel: +60 3 2782 6118