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TendonYan: $6.80 tendon & cheap mentaiko donburis for satisfying CBD lunch

I’ve always loved frolicking in Tanjong Pagar. The main reason is that it’s a treasure trove of Asian eateries and a trip down always warrants a satisfying meal. 

I came across TendonYan while in search of my next reason to head down to the area. It promised of tendon priced at S$6.80 – not a price you’d usually see tagged to a hearty tempura rice bowl.

Nestled in Tanjong Pagar Plaza Food Centre, TendonYan is located near several of Tanjong Pagar’s acclaimed Japanese tempura restaurants. Could it possibly compare? I had to find out.

TendonYan - Stallfront
TendonYan - Stallfront

TendonYan sits on the outermost stretch of the food centre. Decked out in crimson, its facade reminded me of a Japanese Torii gate; it’s pretty hard to miss. 

It also sports a huge poster that depicts their signature tendon offering, alongside prints of other menu items. TendonYan’s menu is simple, composed of just 8 types of donburi and ramen.

The stall was a one-woman show the day I went. Still, I didn’t have to wait long before I received my order from the friendly lady.

What I tried at TendonYan 

TendonYan - Signature Tendon Set
TendonYan - Signature Tendon Set

My first dish was none other than the Signature Tendon Set (S$6.80). I was pleasantly surprised by the large bowl I received. Based on looks alone, the heap of tempura assured me that I was getting more than my money’s worth. 

The assortment was a decent one: ebi, chicken karaage, crabstick, sweet potato and long beans. They were freshly fried and hot to the touch.

I do think that they could afford to improve on presentation, though. Their dishes are served in disposable paper bowls regardless of whether you dine in or takeaway. There also appeared to be little deliberation behind the arrangement of tempura pieces. That’s not the best approach  for the presentation of a dish as aesthetically pleasing as tendon.

Anyways, flavour is of the essence, so let’s get into it.

TendonYan - Signature Tendon Set crabstick
TendonYan - Signature Tendon Set crabstick

The “centrepiece” of the bowl was the giant crabstick with its edges split and fanned out. It was the most enticing of the lot, so I headed straight for it. 

While the crab meat had a pleasant sweetness, don’t expect it to taste like top-grade Japanese snow crab. Nonetheless, it wasn’t too tough, holding a nice crisp from its light batter.

TendonYan - Signature Tendon Set ebi tempura
TendonYan - Signature Tendon Set ebi tempura

Moving on, I dug into the ebi tempura. The 2 pieces that came with the bowl were huge; not shabby at all for something so affordable!

The batter on the ebi tempura leaned thick in comparison to its crabstick counterpart. Regardless, it maintained its crunch and wasn’t greasy in the least, balanced out by the prawn and the sweet teriyaki sauce.

TendonYan - Signature Tendon Set Japanese rice
TendonYan - Signature Tendon Set Japanese rice

I was delighted to see that TendonYan uses Japanese short-grain rice in their donburis. The rice also comes with a healthy drizzle of that same sweet teriyaki sauce, and was thus easy to shovel down.

TendonYan - Mentaiko Nanban Don
TendonYan - Mentaiko Nanban Don

I’m virtually incapable of saying no to anything with mentaiko on it. Naturally, my second dish was the Mentaiko Nanban Don (S$6).

The Mentaiko Nanban Don consists of fluffy Japanese rice topped with pieces of chicken karaage blanketed by a beautiful coral pink layer of flame-seared mentaiko garnished with seaweed.

I should mention that there’s only one thing that makes mentaiko better, and that’s aburi mentaiko. I knew I was in for a ride the moment I saw the stall-owner searing the sauce in my bowl with her blowtorch.

TendonYan - Mentaiko Nanban Don
TendonYan - Mentaiko Nanban Don

The combination of aburi mentaiko with the crispy chicken karaage was pure bliss. Smoky aroma of the mentaiko sauce aside, it had a notable tang akin to tartar sauce. So that’s where the nanban comes into play.

My main gripe, however, has to do with portion size. The chicken karaage pieces were on the smaller side and I finished them up in no time. For a dish so delicious, I would’ve liked a more generous serving to savour with the rice.

TendonYan - Mentaiko Nanban Don ajitama
TendonYan - Mentaiko Nanban Don ajitama

Interestingly, the Mentaiko Nanban Don came topped with half an ajitama (ramen egg)  in opposition to the usual onsen egg. I did, however, find myself liking its addition. The mild shoyu flavour of the silky ajitama yolk and delicate white paired well with the rice.

TendonYan - Chicken Ramen
TendonYan - Chicken Ramen

After tasting 2 donburis, it was only fair that my final dish was the Chicken Ramen (S$5.50). The chicken used here was the same chicken karaage from the Mentaiko Nanban Don. They were put in a separate styrofoam bowl so they wouldn’t turn soggy.

TendonYan - Chicken Ramen soup
TendonYan - Chicken Ramen soup

TendonYan’s Chicken Ramen was just like any basic bowl of ramen, consisting of springy ramen noodles in a milky broth, topped with spring onions and tiny slivers of seaweed.

Of all, the broth was hands down the star of the show. It was creamy yet light, with a mild hint of pepper and wasn’t cloying nor overly salty. I would’ve finished the whole bowl if my sister hadn’t already claimed it as her own.

Final Thoughts

TendonYan - Dishes overview
TendonYan - Dishes overview

Overall, I’d say that you get what you pay for at TendonYan. If you came looking for restaurant-quality tendon and donburis, it unfortunately isn’t for you.

Regardless, TendonYan’s take on these Japanese rice bowls was commendable, delivering on quality with respect to its price point. 

I recommend CBD folks and those who drop by Tanjong Pagar to keep the stall bookmarked for a decent Japanese lunch option that’s friendly to your wallet.

Expected damage: S$5 – S$7.50 per pax

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