Restaurant review: TampopoBy Sarah Dave
November 11, 2010
If you thought you knew all there was to know about noodle restaurants, think again when you visit Tampopo.
No stir fried-off-the-shelf-gubbins-with-a-bit-of-meat-purporting-to-be-from-a-nondescript-Oriental-land is this.
The small chain – a Japanese girl’s name meaning dandelion – recently landed at The Oracle Riverside.
The name is taken from the title of a Japanese film, a cult classic chronicling the quest for the perfect bowl of noodles by the eponymous heroine, a quest the company says it strives to recreate.
You would have heard of some of the dishes on the menu before like yakitori, satay, laksa and rendang but the food comes across as more authentic, less mass-produced and as if it’s just been scooped off a huge street stall wok in Singapore and onto your plate.
Each dish also has a spice hotness rating and its origin is tagged so when selecting your dish you can decide if you want something from somewhere more unusual like Vietnam, Korea or the Philippines.
Street snacks and nibbles are perfect to start with and include yasai gyoza (five griddled dumplings of water chestnut, bamboo shoot and carrot, £3.95) and sesame prawn skewers (three for £4.95).
We decided to begin with the Tampopo sharing platter (serves two, £10.95 or extra portion £5.50 per person) which had a selection of delicious, multi-textured finger food.
These were goi cuon (rice paper rolls filled with vegetables, glass noodles and Asian herbs), bulgogi (marinated grilled beef served with pickled cabbage), coconut prawns (king prawns fried in coconut breadcrumbs), satay (three grilled skewers of chicken with peanut dip) and yasai gyoza (see above).
All delicious and more than enough for two to share with particular highlights the beautifully cooked beef and moreish prawns.
Mains are wonderfully varied with soup noodles including tom kha from Thailand (rice vermicelli, chicken, straw mushrooms in coconut broth with tofu and lime, £9.50) and a selection of East Asian salads such as the Thai nua yang manao (strips of rare grilled rump steak with mint, chilli and lime, £8.50).
Getting down to the nitty gritty and mains are split into wok-fried noodle and rice dishes, stir-fried specials and sauce-based specials.
They include the Malaysian kway teow (flat rice noodles with choi sum and spring onion flavoured with chilli, garlic and dark soy sauce available in chicken, £7.95 and prawn versions, £8.50) and com Hué from Vietnam which combines chicken (£7.50), prawns (£7.95) or just vegetables (£6.95) with rice from the imperial city of Hué with sesame seeds, lemongrass and coriander.
Flash-fried items include tahu goreng (tofu with mushrooms in a tamarind and lime sauce, £6.50) while sauce-based specials tempt with goodies such as gaeng keow wan from Thailand (spicy green coconut curry with Thai aubergines, Asian basil and lime leaf, available with beef, chicken, prawn or veg).
I went for the chicken khao pad – wok-fried rice with fine beans, mushroom, pineapple, Asian basil and peanuts (£7.95) – delicious and filling with a great complement of crunch and sweetness despite its name sounding like ‘cow pat’.
Accompaniments included Thai spicy prawn crackers with sweet chilli sauce (£1.95) – the crackers’ have the perfect snap and resistance, scrumptious, no polystyrene-esque crackers here.
Others were fresh red chillies in soy (50p), wok-fried greens (£3.75) and Hokkien noodles (£2.75).
If there’s any room for dessert several rather sickly sweet options are presented including caramen chuoi ran (Vietnamese fried bananas coated in breadcrumbs and nuts and served with a caramel sauce and cinnamon ice cream, £4.75) and bubor pulot hittam (Malaysian sticky black rice pudding made with creamy coconut milk and palm sugar, £4.25).
Traditionalists among us can go for the chocolate ice cream, ginger crème brulee or mango sorbet.
Tampopo also has a good range of wines and beer.
Service is friendly and helpful, except our first waiter who didn’t have time to take our food order as “he was going home soon anyway” and just brought us drinks.
The restaurant is located helpfully close to the cinema. Well worth a visit – and it does takeaway too.
- Telephone: 0118 9575199
- Website: www.tampopo.co.uk
- Address: The Oracle Riverside, Reading