- 3 min read

Tenryu Chinese Restaurant

Authentic Shanghai-style food in downtown Matsuyama

If you happen to be on a particular side street in Matsuyama’s crowded entertainment district, the Belami Building is easy to spot because its name is emblazoned on the front in huge, red neon letters. The fifth floor of this untidy old building is home to Tenryu, a restaurant that has its devotees among those who are keen on authentic Chinese cooking. The master of Tenryu is from Shanghai, and the food he prepares makes not the slightest nod to assumptions about the little compromises that may be required to adjust Chinese food to Japanese tastes.

This is most starkly revealed when the customer orders mabo dofu, a concoction of tofu and mincemeat in a hot, sticky sauce. Typically in Japan, it’s a mild and even insipid dish, despite the fact the mabo in its name refers to its capacity to numb the lips and mouth with its ferocious spices. The mabo dofu in Tenryu does just that, although the spices are also multilayered and aromatic, making it a very stimulating dish in several ways. Another rewardingly hot dish is the stir-fried chicken with vegetables and cashew nuts, graced with a large quantity of dark red dried chilies.

Not everything is hot though. The pan-fried gyoza are mild and juicy, with rather thick doughy skins, and the delicious kara age fried chicken, offers a respite from the heat. The chahan fried rice is a good match with both the spicy and the milder dishes. All of the food items on the menu are reasonably priced between 500 and 700 yen.

Tenryu serves Asahi Super Dry, a thin, tinny-tasting lager which I usually avoid if I can. Nevertheless, I find that it makes a refreshing accompaniment to the hot food. For those who like it, there are also a variety of Chinese rice wines available, and shochu spirit.

It must be said that Tenryu is not a place you visit in search of elegance and comfort. You sit elbow to elbow on rickety chairs with your knees jammed up against the counter, or packed four to a row on benches. The décor, such as it is, is old and yellowed from decades of cigarette smoke. All of this matters not a whit to most of the customers, but for me, the smoke is a problem that makes me think twice about going to eat at Tenryu. If it weren’t for the cigarette smoke, I’d give the restaurant five stars for the food and the welcoming atmosphere.

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