Posting now, like a critic, after 3 visits to the New Otani tempura bar where Senzaburo-san says he has served for 22 years? I must have misunderstood. But however long, it's a disgrace I haven't discovered this spot any sooner, esp. as it is maybe three blocks away and I had received a recommendation in response to a tempura bar query a few years back (that also advised trying Matsuhisa if I remember correctly). I don't know why I was so shy but now it's going to be a matter of how often I can appear without embarrassing myself.
So the first time I went for lunch with one other person. It was a $25 set menu that included a sizeable 'appetizer' of white fish tempura and shaved onion, followed by onion, squash, ginko, shishito, shrimp, scallop and sweet potato tempura, with rice and miso soup. I may even have forgotten something. But it was substantial and he was attentive to our different paces and replaced the blotting papers (or whatever you call them) several times. The staff on the other side of the bar was very slow though and did not come to bring tea until half way through the meal. Also they did not clear the dirty dishes around us until we asked although they seated us among them and had come back and forth in the area several times.
Next time I went by myself in the evening and had essentially the same menu plus a nice glass of onigaroshi and the bill was something like $38. It seemed a tremendous value.
I arrived later last night and he had more time to chat. For well or ill, he took every inquiry (eg 'shirako?' see prior post) as an order, and not to seem a tease or a flake, I accepted each resulting dish with enthusiasm. One thing I did discover was how fantastic uni tempura can be. I love uni in any form but the tempura made the block of tongues firmer and individuated the roe, where I would have thought heat would have rendered it a puddle. The mackerel roe (I think-- kind of mustard colored, with a crunch like Korean tripe if I remember correctly) was very engaging. That was not tempura but sashimi. He had all sorts of other delights in his cabinet and when I refused every offer of dessert (strawberries, etc) gave me a final piece of chu-toro. Perfect.
Senzaburo-san handles tempura like a great sushi chef. I hope I am not insulting him by saying this. But I have not experienced this level of care and mastery in tempura before so it is my closest point of reference. And the chu-toro and other sashimi items he presented I put him ahead of most chefs I have encountered lately doing sushi as well.
The tempura bar is actually opposite a sushi bar and I haven't heard anything about it. Would be curious to know if others have tried the sushi bar.