“ ASIAN. 16 Albert Quare, M1. Tel: +44 (0)161 8191966. „
Tampopo advertises itself as providing fresh eastern cooking and I could not disagree with this description, the food is delicious, made from fresh ingredients.
Tampopo not only has a restaurant at the address for this review, but also in The Orient in the Trafford Centre, at South Parade in Leeds and in Fulham Road London.
I visited the one in Manchester and as it was my first visit there I have to say it will certainly not be my last.
Although it was a busy time of day when myself and a group of friends arrived, we were only waiting for about 8 minutes, despite having been warned we could face a wait of around 15 minutes for a table.
The restaurant was spotlessly clean, with new place mats set out for us as soon as we sat down. The waiter arrived immediately to take our drinks order while we looked through the menu.
The menu states that it takes you on a tour of the flavours of East Asia, with dishes which you would find in Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, The Phillipines, Korea and Japan.
They also have a good selection of vegetarian dishes and all dishes except soups and desserts can be ordered as takeaways.
The menu is so varied that it was very difficult to make a choice. After much deliberation, we opted for a selection of their small dishes for starters, which are priced from as little as 3.50. That way we shared them between us and all sampled different dishes.
All the food was freshly prepared, we could see the preparation area from where we were sitting and it was good to know what we were eating had been made especially for us. As soon as it was cooked the waiter brought it to our table. These guys certainly know how to work quickly and to synchronise the cooking so everything was ready to serve at the same time.
The different flavours of the dishes we ordered for our main meals added to the enjoyment. Thai food is described on the menu as being "a harmonious balance of hot, salty, sour and sweet flavours." We chose a Som Tam salad which was a green salad with peanuts and a dressing of chilli and lime.
From Malaysia and Singapore there are the hot curries and satay dishes, as well as Chinese stir fries and noodles. The Beef Rendang is a spicy beef curry in coconut milk, flavoured with spices. Too hot for me, but the others enjoyed it.
The Indonesian dishes include chillies and spices/seasonings, but hot flavours are offset by limes and coconut. Udang Pantung Kuning is a dish of prawns in a delicious creamy coconut milk sauce, flavoured with turmeric and peppers and herbs. This had to be my favourite.
In addition we also had Gyoza from Japan, which are dumplings filled with minced meat, bamboo shoots and spring onions and served with a dip of soy sauce. Alternatively you can have vegetarian dumplings which are filled with water chestnuts, bamboo shoots and carrot.
Some of us also had rice or noodles, again there is a wide selection of rice and noodle dishes.
There is a good choice of beers from around Asia and wines from both the New World and France. All at very reasonable prices.
We did not have any desserts as we had eaten so much from our starters and main courses. However the dessert menu offers some luscious sounding dishes! For example Toasted coconut and dark rum ice cream, or Ginger creme brulee.
Hot drinks are green tea, jasmine tea or fair trade organic coffee.
Eating at Tampopopo is more than filling hungry stomachs, it is a social occasion where diners can choose from a variety of dishes and share them between each other. Chopsticks are provided or if you prefer the more usual cutlery, this is also available.
If you have never been to Tampopo then I suggest you go there soon!
Tampopo is one of my regular restaurants in Manchester, especially before the theatre (when they do good deals) and when shopping. It's based in the same square as the town hall, so it's convenient for the office districts and shopping area. However, the crowd is quite mixed; families, suits, groups of friends from mid-20s+.
When I'm trying to describe the food to someone who hasn't been before, I usually end up using the word 'Wagamama'. It's basically the same format - long tables, you order quickly and it's (usually) fast, pan-Asian food. However, Tampopo have a much wider range of dishes and the food tastes really fresh. Plus the portions are bigger and I don't get an MSG headache after Tampopo, unlike wagamama.
There are plenty of starters, which I recommend the yasai gyoza - they're filling, but not heavy or greasy.
The main courses include Ramen soups, rice based dishes and noodle (stir fry) dishes. There are several vegetarian alternatives in each section. There's a strong Malaysian/Thai influence, but there are dishes ranging from Japan to India, so it caters for varying levels of 'spiciness'. For a main course, you can expect to pay between £6-8. I'd find it hard to recommend just one, as most are great, but the two Thai tofu-based noodle meals are great. Everything always takes fresh and the vegetables crisp.The portions are pretty big - neither myself nor my OH usually finish.
Deserts are less adventurous - they're British favourites with a pan-Asian twist - such as ginger creme brulee or mango sorbet. They're still very competently made, though could be a little larger. They are mostly £3.95
Tampopo stock a range of pan-Asian bottled lagers, as well as the usual soft drinks and asian teas. They're a liitle expensive, but the green tea is free!
The restaurant is in a basement, but with windows along one side so it's really quite bright. It has regularly changing exhibitions by local artists, which are usually pretty good. The benches are spacious, although it can get a little noisy when full. The kitchen is open along one wall, which gives a great view of the chefs at work and all the delicious smells!
The only bad point about tampopo is the service. It's rare to get a smile, you get the feeling from them that they're really too busy to be bothering with you and it's a hassle getting hold of a waiter/ess - which means that on one occasion when the waiter 'forgot' to bring our meal over, it took an hour from ordering to getting it, when it's usually only 15 mins - We literally had to go and grab him as our increasingly dramatic waving was going unnoticed. It also is comon to be waiting 15-20 mins for your bill.
I still go in becuase it's convenient, reasonably priced and great food; however, I'd visit a lot more often and recommend it more quickly if the staff were more professional.