Tampopo: A Bit of Japan in West Philly
Hello, welcome to Philly Food Finders. If you have read the bio section, you know I am here to try new food, so my post may tend to be shorter than others. The other day, the group told me we were heading to Tampopo to try some ramen. The walk through West Philly along Spruce was surprisingly nice. The homes we saw were very quaint and we all felt comfortable on the walk.
Tampopo is a small clean Japanese restaurant that can feel crowded quickly. It is located in University City at 269 South 44th Street. When I think Japanese, I think about hibachi restaurants or sushi. This certainly wasn’t hibachi, but I was surprised to find it was not primarily sushi. Rice bowls and salads dominated the menu. The restaurant works by placing your order at the front counter and waiting for your buzzer to go off. So two people ordered ramen while Nicole ordered a regular rice bowl, and I ordered a glorified one called a bi-bim-bop.
While we waited, we noticed it was a BYOB since the crowd of University students had a few jugs of wine. Water was free and sat in a dispenser for people to serve themselves. I love easy access to a large quantity of water. Unfortunately, it was warm and tasted as though the machine was filled with straight Philadelphia tap water. That was nasty.
We finally got our food. Pictures were taken. Then we began to eat. The ramen was served in a massive bowl. That is great, considering it was ordered as a meal. It was served with a small ladle to be used in place of a spoon. I can only imagine that that is awkward, but the two eating it did not complain about that. Unfortunately the taste was met with mixed reviews. One vote was for an indifferent “Egh, it’s fine.” The other from Qingxin was a surprising complaint of it being overly salty. For anyone who has read other posts, you may recall Qingxin’s main complaint for every dish “is not salty enough.” So take that as you will. I did not taste it myself, so I cannot judge.
The rice bowls were simple and self-explanatory. Nicole had spicy beef with brown rice and a little bit of vegetables; I had chicken breast with white rice, a lot of vegetables, and this delicious hot sauce that I could not get enough of. The flavors are basic and straightforward; there is not much to complain or praise with that. I greatly enjoined mine especially after drowning it in the hot sauce. Nicole liked hers, but was upset about the lack of vegetables.
Here are the reviews from the PFF members.
“It was good especially with the hot sauce. The chicken breast was tender and juicy. Once everything was mixed up, every bite was satisfying. ★★★1/2.” – Luke
“The Hot Spicy Beef Bowl I ordered had great flavor. The beef was marinated well and had just the right amount of spice. It was great that they had the option to choose white or brown rice, no extra charge; you don’t often find that at Japanese restaurants. (Make that restaurants in general.) However, I was disappointed that they gave only two pieces of broccoli. I was expecting at least three or four pieces of vegetable to balance out the meatiness of the dish. Overall, the dish was pretty tasty. ★★★1/2” – Nicole
“The Tampopo Ramen was, overall, a big disappointment. While the chewiness of the noodles was good, the broth was severely lacking. It tasted overly salty and did not have any pork taste whatsoever. The pork pieces themselves were only okay. They tasted all right, but they were fatty. ★★1/2” – Qingxin