I remember a time not so long ago when my boyfriend didn’t know about Tampopo. It was an easier time, it was a simpler time, it was a quieter time. He can be a pretty loud guy when he gets giddy and it would seem taking him to Tampopo has given him a new enthusiasm trigger.
Tampopo is an oriental restaurant chain that promises to deliver “fresh eastern cooking” and that it does, they’ve got pretty much the whole of the orient covered. Their menu boasted dishes from (brace your self) Thialand, Vietnam, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. Some may say that’s a few too many, but they’ve managed to turn that into a clever marketing too. This is one of the things Chris gets very loud about. They’ve sorted themselves out with loyalty cards; customers can collect stamps by ordering a main dish from five of the eight countries to get a free main dish. Remind Chris about this and he will get very excited, it seems he’s determined to get his free food.
Whenever we go (usually for a quickie meal before the cinema) I insist on ordering Tod Man Khao Pod (Thailand). For the non-Thai speakers out there that’s “five delicately flavoured corn fritters with a chilli peanut dip”. From my extensive experience eating these I can tell you they’re always very crisp and the tasty chilli peanut dip has refreshing citrusy notes, although it will make your hands stupidly sticky.
We decided to branch out this time and order another small dish this time, I know we’re so brave. We went for the vegetable Goi Cuon Tampopo. If I were Tampopo I wouldn’t have stuck their name on them, they’re not all that. As it says they’re served cold but ours seemed unfortunately closer to chilled which made them weird! They may have been pleasant had they been served at room temperature. The filling was slightly bland and the rice paper wrappings apparently resembled bums. That was Chris’ description not mine, he is far more eloquent with his wording. I wouldn’t get them again.
For my collectable main I opted for the vegan Com Hué (Vietnam). Wok- fried rice from the imperial city of Hué, flavoured with sesame seeds, lemongrass & coriander. It turns out you also get a soya style sauce to drizzle over the top, this turned the dish from bland to really quite good. Not only do you get that sauce but you also get some surprise tofu. I do love tofu but this was a bit of a tease, as there were only only four tiny pieces. I love tofu done well, don’t tease me with it.
The other one ordered Yaki Udon (Japan), chunky udon noodles with vegetables, wok-fried in soy and mirin. His noodles were cooked perfect, as was the sauce, although being the addict he is he had to add extra Sriracha. Apparently bit of tofu would have been preferable, but that then again he does admit to being greedy.
We didn’t have dessert but we did have beer. Tampopo stock a fairly good beer selection; although they do all seem to be lager. I’m not complaining though since they’re lagers I like. After a dedicating a lot of time to sampling there stock I’ve settled on Thia Singha, I think. May be I should do a touch more testing.
Overall Tampopo Albert Square is a great little place. I can’t really generalise to the other branches because I’ve never been, but I would definitely recommend the Albert Square branch it if you want something noodle-y given to you. That is as long as you don’t mind sharing a bench with other diners. Of course you don’t mind though, it’s brilliant ear wigging in on awkward dates!