Tampopo Corn Exchange, Corn Exchange, Exchange Square, Manchester, M4 3TR – Visit Now
Tampopo is one of the stalwarts of the high street, with locations scattered across the city. Today we’re at the Tampopo Corn Exchange branch, just on the cusp of the Northern Quarter, sampling the five course taste tour of Japan.
Tampopo translates as ‘dandelion’ in Japanese, but this special menu doesn’t feature much in the way of colourful flora, being more geared around weighty meaty dishes. At first glance the menu looks a little heavy for a sunny Sunday afternoon, but it turns out each course is well proportioned and light on the grease.
Tampopo translates as ‘dandelion’ in Japanese
The pork dumpling course is a solid opener. It’s those cute Japanese dumplings, packed with neatly seasoned minced pork and lightly fried to give a delicious charred based. The dip is simple, a tart vinegary dipping sauce – this works well with the accompanying tempura vegetable but a couple of alternative options (plum or sweet chili sauce?) for the dumplings would have improved things.
The sticky chicken wings are pleasant enough. They arrive scattered with pleasantly fresh slices of spring onion and chili pepper, and each wing offers a firm meaty mouthful. They aren’t the greatest wings you’ll ever eat, but they scratch an itch.
The Tonkotsu ramen, however, is a definite misstep. This is a milky broth, with noodles, simple green veg and big thick chunks of fatty pork. The combination of chewy pork and cloudy – almost creamy in appearance – liquid doesn’t rest easy on the eye, and all the flavours combine into a bland forgettable mush. One to avoid.
Next up, yaki udon and katsu curry. This is ostensibly two dishes at once – one a perfectly fine thick udon noodle dish, refreshingly light on oil and packed with crunchy pepper and onions. The katsu curry could be presented better – looking a bit ‘school dinner’, but is a pleasantly-cooked piece of chicken, in a standard katsu sauce. It’s not so much bad, but feels like a missed opportunity – you get the impression that a specially-crafted katsu sauce, taking into account Western palates as well as traditional Japanese ingredients could really be something special.
A light mango sorbet rounds the menu off. Again, nothing too heavy, overly sweet or calorific, just a nice little blob of frozen pureed mango.
You’ll no doubt find better in some of Manchester’s well-hidden Japanese restaurants, but Tampopo isn’t about dazzling underground dishes, more feeding hungry bellies with a mainstream take on East Asian cuisine. The dishes on offer today demonstrate flair and some interesting ideas but in future, it’d be nice to see their chefs given more freedom to experiment and create some jaw-dropping new dishes.