I had been forewarned that my esteemed Editor and sometime luncheon companion was on Scout duty, the Brunette was two-timing me with another lunch date and the Blonde was at work, so it was to be dining solo. While I enjoy breaking bread with others, I do not mind eating alone with nothing more than a good book or even social media for company. It also allows one to survey the sounds, sights, smells and tastes of your surroundings. I do like a good people-watch or even a spot of earwigging.
I had been directed to Tampopo at Manchester’s Corn Exchange only to find it closed for maintenance. So it was on to their branch in Albert Square where I explained the situation and asked if they could they accommodate me. After some communications to-and-fro, the helpful and kind Karolina showed me to a discrete corner table for me to ply my trade as a reviewer.
Tampopo is named after the great 1985 Japanese food film by Juzo Itami. Long forgotten, it concerns the search for the perfect bowl of ramen noodles which, like Jewish chicken soup, is the source of comfort and healing for lost souls in the land of the rising sun. It is a maintenance of sorts. The film is great and worth a look-see. Meanwhile, the restaurant was busy with workers seeking their own bowls of maintenance between the morning and afternoon hours of wage slavery. As I have shrugged off the shackles of employment, I am allowed a little more leisure in my never-ending pursuit of a fine meal. The menu at Tampopo has a good range of foods from across East Asia, including Japan, Vietnam, Thailand and Singapore.
I started with Japanese Pork Gyoza and Thai Chicken Satay. In the proper manner, the gyoza were steamed on two sides and fried on the third to give them tenderness and crunch. Dipped in a soy vinegar liquid, they were satisfying and salty. The satay was smothered in a sweet peanut sauce with crunchy cucumber chunks on the side. A bottle of excellent BeerLao washed them down. I was distracted and highly entertained by a pair of co-workers next to me. Once they had finished bitching about work, bosses etc, they regaled me with the tale of Jackie and Charlie at an office do. I was intrigued by this liberal story of a same-sex workplace romance, a modern take on an age-old story. It turned out the Jackie was a married woman. I tried to hide my disappointment (and my earwigging) as the story descended into narrative cliché.
My Beef Pad Krapow arrived, a rich dish of fiery peppers, rump steak, onions and chillies. My only beef with the beef was that it could have had a tad more beef and a little more pow in the krapow. It was tender and the mound of rice soaked up the aromatic dark sauce. My inner minion got the better of me and I ordered the Vietnamese banana fritters with cinnamon ice cream to finish. The minion screamed ‘BANANA’ from the first bite to the last.
Fully maintained, I thanked Karolina as I left Tampopo. I headed towards the newly reopened Fopp to see if they had Itami’s cinematic classic in stock and mused over the fate of Jackie and Charlie.