My Pan-Asian cuisine-loving blog friends, if you ever make a visit to Manchester, I highly recommend that you pop in to one of the city centre’s two Tampopo venues and sample their wares.
I’ve eaten at Tampopo a number of times, and attended Masterchef finalist Jackie Kearney’s cookbook launch back in January 2016, which was quite enjoyable.
As I’m on the ol’ mailing list these days, I receive notification of their various events and one-off suppers, and was delighted when one popped up recently: a vegan taster menu, in which they would be trialling one or two new dishes. At only £23 for five courses and a complimentary beer, bellini, or mocktail, I couldn’t rightly refuse.
Behold our menu for the evening:
Some of these dishes I had sampled previously, but was utterly thrilled to sample them once again. I knew that the sticky tofu would be a treat akin almost to no other. I do declare that one has not truly appreciated tofu if one has not sampled Tampopo’s sticky tofu (particularly with a cool, crunchy cucumber hit on the side).
Next up was a soup course: a spicy Rebus soup (not, you’ll be relieved to know, fictional detective Inspector Rebus since that would be both impossible and not vegan) made with a rich sweet potato broth. It was spicy and satisfying.
Next came a large platter of salad which N regarded with some suspicion after I nibbled on some delicious crispy lotus root and declared “ooh, aniseedy”. The poor chap was quite biased after that and I confess I gobbled most of it down. The fried tofu atop the salad was a little bland, but I felt it belonged just as well in a cool, refreshing antidode to the rendang to follow as anywhere.
The jackfruit rendang did indeed follow, and it was a highlight of the evening’s dishes. A thick, rich sauce, not too spicy, served with delicious flaky buttery paratha triangles.
A few beers in, we were beginning to feel the strain on the trouser band at this point, but we soldiered on as we knew another highlight was coming: sweet potato katsu curry with sticky rice.
Forgive us if you will, but N and I share the same adoration of katsu curry sauce for one reason: IT’S CHIPPY CURRY SAUCE. Tampopo’s is, as they promised, perfectly flavoured, and the sweet potato slice was perfectly prepped. Not a hint of sogginess, but rather a delightful crispness to counter the smooth sauce and gelatinous rice.
The arrival of a small portion of hot and sour stir fry was greeted with groans and waves from some patrons; one small family at a table next to ours didn’t touch their own three portions, which led to an amazing feat of self-control on my own part, readers (because apparently taking food from other tables is not appropriate behaviour in a restaurant). The stir-fried tofu and vegetables were tasty enough, but no match for the previous katsu-course, and so though it went down easily it was not quite a highlight for us.
I knew what to expect from Tampopo’s banana fritter, having eaten it on various occasions in the past. In theory, it’s a delicious and indulgent way to end a dinner, with a crunchy and nutty coating on the banana, deep fried to a crisp. My sweet tooth is ever so sweet though, and I can’t help comparing this to the utterly delightful local Chinese takeaway fritters of my youth: coated in batter and fried, and smothered in sticky sweet syrup. Personally, I would love to see an even unhealthier option on the menu, but I realise that most patrons may have a slightly higher-brow opinion on these matters.
In summary, my dear blog pals, this was a highly enjoyable evening of food and foamy bottled fulfilment. I continue to enjoy Tampopo’s vegan offerings and would recommend that you pay them a visit should you find yourself in town.