Monday, February 22, 2016

Tanpopo Noodle Shop – St. Paul, MN

I’ve been trying to get D.Rough to go to this place with me for at least two years. It isn’t that she didn’t want to go, I was simply asking at all the wrong times. Like when we had just eaten or had our hands full from shopping or because they’re only open for dinner. But somehow, the stars aligned and we found ourselves there. I was tremendously excited about it. The wall decorations are sparse inside, but the tables re reclaimed wood by a local artists and each one of them is a piece of art. They’re beautiful. And the atmosphere in the restaurant is… um… quiet. There’s no other way to describe it. It is like museum quiet in there. The servers all whisper. Even the family with kids in there was silent. It’s a little unnerving, but again, I’m there to eat.

I got the Tori Udon noodles, which is pan-fried chicken breasts, some wakame seaweed, and scallions. I was really interested to try something very basic to see how the flavors hit me. I love Japanese food, but I like to start simple and move up to more and more flavors – that’s just me, though. D.Rough got something with a little more action in it – Nabeyaki Udon noodles – shrimp tempura, chicken, shiitake mushrooms, fish cake, tomago-yaki (a type of Japanese omelette), wakame, and scallions. We also heard one of the specials was sumi gyoza – pork dumplings with a light fire oil drizzled on top.

The gyoza was even better than we expected. Sometimes dumplings can be a bit bland – these were NOT bland at all. I’m not sure if it was the pork filling or the fire oil, but they had great flavor. Top-notch.

The noodle soups were absolutely wonderful. A lot Japanese cooking relies on the flavor of quality ingredients and doesn’t’ use a lot of seasoning or sauce, but both of the dishes we ordered had wonderful flavor. The Tori Udon that I got was wonderful. The broth was simple, but had flavor, and the chicken was perfectly cooked. D.Rough’s was a bit more advanced, but was also quite amazing. PLUS, hers was presented and looked like a smiley face in her bowl.The one odd thing about her disch was that the tempura shrimp was in the soup, which meant the breading on it wasn't crispy at all. We thought it odd, but who's to say what is regular practice?

I’m glad this first time we went here was so amazing, now it will take far less convincing to get D.Rough to go back there with me (or maybe I’ll sneak down there every time she goes to roller derby practice). I’m so glad this place is even better than I expected!

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