We investigate the “secret menu” at Tendon Tenya: vegetable tempura for 210 yen?!
Mr. Sato knows a cheap way to chow down on Japan’s flaky fried food rice bowls, so he shared the trick with all of us!
If you know anything at all about Japanese cuisine, you know about the humble rice bowl. Topped with mirin-marinated beef, pork cutlet in breadcrumbs, egg-glazed cuts of chicken or fluffy, battered vegetables, everybody has their favorite, and our Japanese-language reporter P.K. Sanjun is no exception. He’s obsessed with tempura bowls, and who can blame him? Crunchy batter, succulent vegetables, your choice of fish, shrimp or chicken, all resting on a comforting bed of white rice. On weeks where he’s not feeling especially calorie-conscious he’d happily eat ten-don (tenpura donburi/tempura rice bowl, not fibrous collagen tissue) every other day!
So when Mr. Sato boasted of knowing a secret trick to ordering the vegetable tempura bowl from tempura chain Tenya for just 210 yen (US$1.90), P.K. was very intrigued.
▼ SoraNews24’s local Tenya branch
Tenya is a place P.K. is well acquainted with. Ubiquitous, cheap and super tasty, they’re easy to find throughout Japan and will serve you any number of hot and tasty tempura bowls. On this fateful day, P.K. announced that he was heading there for lunch.
P.K.: “See you guys later, I’m off to Tenya!” Mr. Sato: “Tenya? Great idea, maybe I’ll go too. Have you decided what to order yet?” P.K.: “I haven’t really thought about it, but…” Mr. Sato: “Pfft, amateur. It’s fall, isn’t it? You have to get the vegetable tempura in fall. How else are you supposed to savor each vegetable, one by one, while feeling a deep gratitude for the harvest bounties?” P.K.: “Uh, okay. I mean, their vegetable tempura is good… I guess I will get that today.” Mr.Sato: “I recommend it, if you want to be a top-ranked journalist like I am. Hey, we should go together! I’ll treat you. I know a life hack to get a vegetable bowl for just 210 yen.” P.K.: “Seriously?! Those things usually cost 550 yen! You gotta tell me how to do it!” Mr. Sato: “Don’t worry. Follow the example of I, Hidenori Sato, who both loves and is loved by Tendon Tenya, and I will steer you on the path to knowledge! How lucky you are to work with a guy who knows more life trivia than Google itself!”
Now, it wasn’t that P.K. doubted those grandiose claims. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to check the online website to see what campaigns were running, would it? But surely enough, there were no offers or coupons that claimed to reduce the vegetable tempura bowl to less than half its original cost. Perhaps Mr. Sato had a special, limited coupon? Or maybe he just planned on begging the staff for a discount? So long as P.K. got to eat a vegetable tempura bowl at the end of it, he sure wasn’t going to complain.
▼ Mr. Sato peruses the menu, despite already knowing his order
When nature calls, though, it calls, and P.K. headed to the bathroom, asking Mr. Sato to pass along his order of a vegetable tempura bowl. Mr. Sato waved him on, telling him he would reveal his secret once P.K. returned.
Once P.K. had finished his pilgrimage to the porcelain throne, he slid back down into the booth.
P.K.: “Whew! So, Mr. Sato… is it a special coupon? On the menu the price is still written as 550 yen…” Mr.Sato: “When your meal arrives, you will understand. Patience.”
And soon enough…
▼ Tendon Tenya’s Vegetable Tempura Bowl, 550 yen
P.K.: “Wow, looks good. It really is just the regular one from the menu! Hope you don’t mind if I eat fi-” Mr.Sato: “Stop, you idiot! That’s my tempura bowl,not yours. Yours is this other one.”
P.K. looked at the bowl Mr. Sato was presenting to him with mounting horror.
It was a rice bowl, all right.
But atop the fluffy white mounds… Oh, God…
▼ White rice (with okra tempura topping), 210 yen.
… was a single piece of battered okra.
▼ → Expectation ← Reality
P.K.: “Uh… Mr. Sato? You did order me the vegetable tempura bowl, didn’t you?” Mr. Sato: “I sure did. Why, do you think okura is fish? Meat? What is okra, P.K.?” P.K.: “It’s…a vegetable…” Mr. Sato: “Exactement! So, if you were to generalize that to the meal before you, what kind of tempura bowl are you eating? Ready, go!” P.K.: “Urgh…A…A vegetable tempura bowl.” Mr. Sato: “Ja, richtig! You can purchase a bowl of plain rice for 150 yen at Tenya, and top it with whatever you like. Okra in tempura batter costs an additional 60 yen, making this a 210 yen vegetable tempura bowl! Have I uttered a single falsehood here? You can, indeed, eat a vegetable rice bowl at Tenya for just 210 yen!” P.K.: “But I’d rather just pay for the regular! Just one piece okra isn’t going to satisfy me!”
At this, Mr. Sato’s entire manner seemed to shift.
Mr. Sato: “Hold your tongue, you third-rate journo! You’re a whole ten years away from being worthy of a regular vegetable bowl! Can you even relate with that okra? Can you understand its trials and tribulations, where it was raised, the sights it’s seen? Try to envision the roads it took to become that tasty fried thing in front of you!” P.K.: “I… I don’t know what you’re even talking about anymore, I just wanted a vege-“
Mr. Sato had clearly had enough of P.K.’s ungrateful nature.
He bellowed at a restaurant-appropriate volume:
“Still you backtalk me? When you have arrived at my plateau in life experience, whence you may converse with each of the tasty fried vegetables individually and appreciate their contributions, only then may you eat the vegetable tempura bowl in its entirety. What merit is there in treating you, knave, who cannot even engage with a single okra, to a bountiful platter such as this?! This is why you remain a low-level muckraker! Have you learned nothing from your years piggy-backing off of my successes?”
“I don’t really think there was a single thing worth learning,” is what P.K. thought, though he didn’t quite have the guts to say it in response. Instead, he decided to take the meagre okra offering from Mr. Sato’s gracious hands and eat it. While it wasn’t the most fulfilling of meals, the okra itself was pretty good… Though that probably had more to do with Tenya’s expertise than Mr. Sato’s.
▼ You can practically hear the chorus of tiny violins.
As they returned to the office, Mr. Sato presented P.K. with a coupon. “After all,” he said piously, “a big-shot like me doesn’t need this.”
▼ The coupons allow you to get either 100 yen off of a boxed lunch or 50 yen off a standard order.
▼ It looks like he didn’t use a coupon on their order, though he did kindly add tare sauce to P.K.’s okra.
With Mr. Sato’s blessing to potentially upload his good deeds to the internet, P.K. decided it was alright to share the specifics of his life-hack-that-isn’t-actually-a-life-hack, too. Next time you’re in an area with a Tenya, try out the Mr. Sato Special 210 Vegetable Tempura Bowl, and tell us what your dinner has to say about its exploits.