Neither of us had ever heard of a food called a "bird's nest" before, but TJ's has done magical things with veggie-based dishes in the past, so I figured it was worth the gamble.
I'm a fan of tempura-anything. I've had scrumptious vegetable tempura from a number of Japanese restaurants, not to mention some excellent meat and seafood tempura's as well. We've reviewed one other tempura dish from TJ's, which got a low-ish score, although this extraordinarily unique vegetable tempura concoction redeems Trader Joe's reputation with tempura completely, at least in my book.
If you've had vegetable tempura before, you'll know that it's usually just one tempura-ized vegetable at a time. In this case it's several, including onions, which I've never seen in the form of tempura before. But I think it's the onions that really make this dish extra flavorful...just don't kiss anybody right after eating it. There are also carrots, kale, and of course, tempura batter. It's a delicious combination that winds up resembling the conglomeration of twigs, strings, and mud in a typical bird's nest. And if that comparison isn't very appetizing, just try the product, and you'll quickly forget about any negative images in your mind.
To add to the taste-tacularity, the dipping sauce is simply brilliant. It's a simple soy sauce, but with just enough sweetness and savoriness to make it seem like a gourmet chef's original creation. It comes right in the package with the bird's nests, and there's plenty of it.
One complaint: it's greasy. The nutrition info makes it seem relatively lean and low-calorie, but for crying out loud they claim that one piece is the recommended serving size! Sonia and I each ate 4 within minutes of pulling them out of the oven. If you're like us, you'll put away more than half your RDA for fat before you even have time to think. There's just something about these things that make them melt in your mouth and slide right down into your tummy. If we had bought two packages instead of just one, we would have immediately thrown the second one into the oven right after finishing the first. For the sake of my gut, I'm glad we didn't.
But other than the fattiness, I can't recommend this product enough. It was a pleasant surprise for both of us. Just click here to watch Sonia and I tasting it for the very first time.
I give it 4.5 stars. Sonia does too.
Bottom line: 9 out of 10 stars.