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    3 Reviews
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    • More +
      04.07.2012 16:48
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      More for my money please!

      I remember someone mentioning Tampopo when it opened in Reading. Always keen to try new restaurants, I googled the menu but dismissed it, because I had no idea what the meals were (too many names like Nonya or Gaeng Wan) and it was lost in a sea of new Asian places to eat and a non stop whirl of social engagements. When Gourmet Girl texted me a year later and asked me to come and try it with her, I was feeling more adventurous and tripping over myself for a couple of hours of adult company. She was waiting in the pub after work, an empty pint glass in front of her and a voucher for buy one get one free on main meals at Tampopo.

      We made the short walk through sheets of rain, grumbling about the unseasonably cold and gritty July weather and burst through the doorway of the restaurant with relief. From the outside it was unassuming; inside were long wooden tables and hard benches, low orange lights, a bright wall of red on the right and a long stainless steel open kitchen to the left. It was pleasant enough, but with that draughty canteen feel that works a lot better in summer, or in Thailand.

      It was pretty empty, but eventually a member of staff appeared and seated us at the end of a table near the window. We slumped gratefully, peeling off our wet coats and shaking out her umbrella. There are none of the convenient bag hooks you get at the Yo Sushi or Wagamama, so we just dumped all our stuff on the window ledge and the floor. Gourmet Girl has both a new job and new admirers since our last meal out and expressed genuine surprise at all the interest. Obviously the supreme effort she put in at Fat Club lately has highlighted how tall and blonde and glowing she is. I had a show and tell with all my mobile phone pictures of M&M which were duly admired. Then the waiter was back asking for our order.

      "Can I have some.....guidance?" I asked, looking at the confusing array of food. The menu was divided by Small Dishes (Apparently these are starters / sides rather than light meals), Soup Noodles, Wok Fried Noodles and Rice Dishes, Stir Fries, Curries and Stews and finally Accompaniments (more sides). He asked if it was our first time eating at Tampopo - which we both felt was a question we should have been asked on arrival - then ran through an explanation of how the colours on the menu linked into the countries on the placemat map. The number of chillies pictured on the menu denotes the heat of the dish and there are 'V' for vegetarian options and 'Ve' for Vegan.

      We ordered drinks, but I needed a soft option as I'm still feeding M&M, so I picked the Ginger Beer. Gourmet Girl had no such concerns and ordered up exotic bottled beer from Laos. Five minutes of concentrating later, she selected the Chicken Katsu Curry at £9.50 without allowing her decision related frown to spoil her new hot look. I peered at it all again and pointed at vegetable Gaeng Keow Wan, which I didn't attempt to pronounce. This looked like the easiest dish with no meat or peanuts, a kind of Thai Green Curry.

      Like Wagamama, they write on your placemats to indicate who has ordered what and like Wagamama, the staff wander blindly around the restaurant when the food comes out, unable to read their colleagues scrawl. What was so wrong with table numbers?

      When we flagged down our food, it looked good, though my bowl of curry was worryingly small and the jasmine rice barely half a cup. The Katsu curry was much larger and came with its own rice and an enviable sesame side salad. I had failed to notice the two chillies pictured next to my meal, so the first bite of spiciness came as a surprise. The sauce was beautiful, with unexpected depth and only a hit of creaminess. The freshness of the lime leaves and the hint of perfume from the lemongrass were in harmony. The vegetables consisted of one square cm of aubergine, three thin slices of carrot and a couple of green beans, there was no substance to the dish at all and even with the rice I was left feeling decidedly hungry. I wished I'd ordered more, but then I'd expected a main meal and a side dish to be plenty after a big lunch and an afternoon of shovelling biscuits. Gourmet Girl fared better and even topped up with some Prawn Crackers (which were forgotten by the waiter and sat on the side until after our meal) but she didn't look full and she didn't leave a crumb.

      We ordered what seemed to be the most filling dessert available, fried bananas in a breadcrumb coating, with caramel sauce and a scoop of ice cream. Of the other desserts, all were just overpriced ice cream or rice pudding when, to be honest, we'd had enough rice with the meal. The bananas were slightly sour, the coating bland. The caramel sauce was a faint watery smear and the ice cream portions minuscule. It was a fairly terrible pudding on every level.

      We used the toilets, which were modern and gleaming, with those high doors that leave your legs on display. The Lush branded soap by the sink was a nice touch, and everything seemed clean. They also have a little shop which stocks the Tampopo products, like the curry paste and accessories such as Rick Stein books on Eastern cooking if you feel inspired enough to try making this stuff at home. It's a good crack at the 'complete' experience.

      The bill for this light meal was a staggering £36 for the two of us including drinks. Although it was tasty, the price is way too high for such tiny portions and the cold restaurant, hard seating and lacklustre service just don't merit the spend. I might come back for lunch or a snack if I'm in town, though not dinner. There was very little atmosphere on the night we visited, with just a handful of bedraggled customers who were lingering to avoid the terrible weather outside.

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      • More +
        19.09.2011 16:29
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        Quick food that is pricier than it should be

        Tampopo is very similar to Wagamama in its design and theme. Noodle bars are no longer found in only China towns but are springing up all over cities and towns. Tampopo is located in Leeds city centre and every time I visit, I am always impressed with the food quality.
        The restaurant is simple in nature and design, the tables are long communal ones with benches to perch on either side, this is not your 'Saturday night' restaurant as it is nothing more than a noodle bar. There is a great sense on community though as you don't know who will be sitting next to you. The kitchen runs down the side of the restaurant and the pleasant sizzle of foods and banging of pans gives the restaurant a great buzz.
        The restaurant is table service where the waiter scribbles on your napkin what you have ordered so that when the dishes come, they can be put straight in front of you without having to figure out who's is whose.
        The atmosphere is really relaxed and informal but still very adult, the benches were not designed for children as they are too far away from the table.

        *Drinks*
        There are an average selection of drinks to choose from and a selection of Asian beers. There are a number of different wines to choose from too.

        *Food*
        The cuisine is a mix and match of popular pan Asian rice and noodle dishes where the menu clearly tells you whereabouts in the world your dish comes from. The food I had was a Malaysian dish, which came covered a rich smoky soy sauce. The presentation didn't look up to much but the taste made up for it. Similarly the other dishes arrived in a similar condition but all tasted very different and very delicious.
        The portion sizes are huge and you get a decent portion of noodles or rice. The dishes do seem to lack as much meat as I would like though. I ordered a prawn dish and I only got about five or six prawns, this was a little bit dissatisfying when I paid over nine pounds for the meal.
        The food was hot and arrived quickly at the table; if you want you can watch the chef create your meal. I like the fact that the food is made freshly in front of you.

        *Service*
        The service here is hit and miss, on some occasions it is great but one the last couple of occasions the service has let the restaurant down. First of all the waiter forgot my prawn crackers starter but still charged me for it and then on the second occasion, I never received a drink I asked for. Mistakes do happen though and the staff were really busy.

        Overall*
        A meal for two on average cost £25.00 including drinks and tip. This is averagely priced for Leeds city centre and is a perfect option for lazy evenings when you cannot be bothered cooking.
        I will come back to Tampopo and I especially like the bits of rock you get at the end of the meal with the bill, they have the words "I love Tampopo" running though them; a nice, cute finishing touch.
          Tampopo is very similar to Wagamama in its design and theme. Noodle bars are no longer found in only China towns but are springing up all over cities and towns. Tampopo is located in Leeds city centre and every time I visit, I am always impressed with the food quality.
        The restaurant is simple in nature and design, the tables are long communal ones with benches to perch on either side, this is not your 'Saturday night' restaurant as it is nothing more than a noodle bar. There is a great sense on community though as you don't know who will be sitting next to you. The kitchen runs down the side of the restaurant and the pleasant sizzle of foods and banging of pans gives the restaurant a great buzz.
        The restaurant is table service where the waiter scribbles on your napkin what you have ordered so that when the dishes come, they can be put straight in front of you without having to figure out who's is whose.
        The atmosphere is really relaxed and informal but still very adult, the benches were not designed for children as they are too far away from the table.

        *Drinks*
        There are an average selection of drinks to choose from and a selection of Asian beers. There are a number of different wines to choose from too.

        *Food*
        The cuisine is a mix and match of popular pan Asian rice and noodle dishes where the menu clearly tells you whereabouts in the world your dish comes from. The food I had was a Malaysian dish, which came covered a rich smoky soy sauce. The presentation didn't look up to much but the taste made up for it. Similarly the other dishes arrived in a similar condition but all tasted very different and very delicious.
        The portion sizes are huge and you get a decent portion of noodles or rice. The dishes do seem to lack as much meat as I would like though. I ordered a prawn dish and I only got about five or six prawns, this was a little bit dissatisfying when I paid over nine pounds for the meal.
        The food was hot and arrived quickly at the table; if you want you can watch the chef create your meal. I like the fact that the food is made freshly in front of you.

        *Service*
        The service here is hit and miss, on some occasions it is great but one the last couple of occasions the service has let the restaurant down. First of all the waiter forgot my prawn crackers starter but still charged me for it and then on the second occasion, I never received a drink I asked for. Mistakes do happen though and the staff were really busy.

        Overall*
        A meal for two on average cost £25.00 including drinks and tip. This is averagely priced for Leeds city centre and is a perfect option for lazy evenings when you cannot be bothered cooking.
        I will come back to Tampopo and I especially like the bits of rock you get at the end of the meal with the bill, they have the words "I love Tampopo" running though them; a nice, cute finishing touch.
          

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        • More +
          09.07.2009 22:56
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          Perfect for lunch in town

          *This review is based on the Manchester restaurant, by the printworks - 1 of only 6 existing Tampopo restaurants*

          A big fan of Wagamamas, a friend and I decided to try Tampopo for comparison, confisent that we would find a similar menu, and in fact we found a very similar restaurant - the bench-style seating, long tables, and staff's practice of writing your order on the paper placemats make it aesthetically almost identical. However, I found the range of food and theme interestingly different.

          Whereas Wagamama restaurants are modelled on Japanese ramen bars, Tampopo offer traditional meals from Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, Japan and Korea - a map of East Asia on the placemat pointing out where each recipe originates from. A similar healthy choice of noodles, curries, soups and sharing starters to Wagamama's are on offer, but flavour dimensions of coconut milk, seafood, and nuts provide a more warming and exotic menu representing a wider spread of Asian cuisine. Desserts include exotic flavoured ice creams (e.g. mango, cinnamon) and Malaysian sticky black rice pudding, and the drinks available include a selection of Asian beers, jasmine tea and Tzu (sparkling fruit health drinks)

          An Eastern Express menu offers a choice of 6 main courses and a side portion from £6.95, from 12-7pm, while meals range from £3-5 for starters and £7-12 for main courses - the menu should be studied carefully as the stirfried and sauce based specials do not include rice or noodles in the price.
          The restaurant itself was clean, welcoming and had a calm atmosphere, and the staff were polite and efficient. I would recommend this restaurant to anyone who enjoys Eastern Asian, healthy food for modest prices served quickly.

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        • Product Details

          At Tampopo we bring you the authentic tastes of Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, Japan and Korea through healthy, high-quality food at value-for-money prices with quick, friendly service.