Cheap & Good

Cheap & Good: Natsu serves affordable, tasty tendon bowls

The veggie tendon with onsen egg costs $5.90.
The veggie tendon with onsen egg costs $5.90.PHOTO: NATSU

The popularity of tendon this year is something that I am glad about. Tempura on Japanese rice, what's not to love?

And while many of the brands sell fairly affordable options priced around $15, it is not surprising that someone has started a cheaper version - and it is pretty good too.

Natsu is by the Pezzo Group, best known for its chain of pizza kiosks. Its month-old kiosk specialising in Japanese tempura is a takeaway concept located at The Clementi Mall. Prices start at $5.90 for the veggie tendon with onsen egg. It may not be plated as beautifully as versions served in restaurants, but for the price and the portion size, I'm not complaining.

I get a slice of pumpkin, baby French beans and a large piece of kakiage on warm Japanese rice and a runny onsen egg. It pays to get the freshly fried items, as my kakiage is crisp and features an assortment of red and green capsicum, kang kong, pumpkin, onions and carrots. I also like that I get pickled cucumber and seaweed on the side, perfect to balance out the fried stuff.

I try the chicken tendon ($7.90) as well, which comes with two big chunks of chicken, along with capsicum, pumpkin and whole shiitake mushroom tempura. With it, there is pickled cucumber and cherry tomatoes in a yuzu dressing - again, a good way to refresh the palate.

While not all the items are hot when I eat them, the batter for the vegetables is light, not too thick and has not hardened. The batter for the chicken I have, however, is on the thicker side, although the meat remains juicy. It is best to consume the fried food within 30 minutes.

More importantly, any excess oil has been drained properly from the tempura, so they are not soggy.

For $1.50 more, you can swop the Japanese rice for matcha soba. Or go for the salad and tempura set ($7.90), which includes prawn, pumpkin, chicken tempura and Japanese pickles over a bed of fresh mixed greens. You can also add on extra ingredients, priced from 80 cents.

Finally, choose a sauce to complement your meal - original, spicy, wasabi mayonnaise, or truffle cream (add $1). My pick is the spicy sauce, which has just a light kick of heat to go with the fried items.

Now, I'm just hoping that Natsu expands with more outlets to satisfy my tendon cravings.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 31, 2017, with the headline 'Tendon with tempura so light and crisp'. Print Edition | Subscribe