Monday, April 12, 2010

Tanpopo Noodle Shop

Visited on Monday, March 29th with Jen

Outside Tanpopo

Erin's Review

Well, clearly we are kind of sucking it up with the reviews lately, so I decided it was necessary to start pulling in some guest bloggers! While Ben and I still do get to go out fairly frequently due to our abundance of local baby-sitters, I also go out with friends to some new places, and now I'm going to start reviewing places even if Ben isn't along - I think he prefers it that way, because then he doesn't get hounded by me to write his part of the post ;)

I was missing my coworker Jen due to my extended absence from work, so we arranged to meet for dinner. Since I was asking her to be a guest blogger, I let her pick the place - she chose Tanpopo Noodle Shop which sounded perfect to me!

When I got there, it was pretty much empty, which I expected for a Monday night in downtown St. Paul. The space is pretty cool - fairly large and kind of industrial looking, fitting for the area.

The noodle soups were intriguing, but I decided to get something a little more exciting and went with the shrimp tempura teishoku, which is a set meal that comes with soup, rice and pickles. I also went with a glass of their house red wine, which was tasty.


My entree was very impressive looking, AND delicious! Everything was piping hot and tasted as if it was very freshly prepared. Initially, I thought the teishoku would be too much food, but it was pretty much the perfect amount - the salad and soup were small, and there was a good amount of shrimp.

Shrimp Tempura Teishoku

I really enjoyed Tanpopo! I would definitely recommend checking it out if you are looking for a place in the lowertown area.

Jen's Review

Erin and I decided it had been too long since we’d seen each other, and I wanted to hear all about how new mommyhood was going for her, so we decided dinner and drinks were in order. Erin suggested that I pick a place off the We Got Served list, and the Ben suggested I write the blog post for it. A grand plan! I looked through the list, eliminated one (Supo) option because it wasn’t open on Mondays. And then I saw Tanpopo on the list – bingo! I’d been to Tanpopo twice before – once in the old location on Grand Avenue (or was it Dale? I’m not sure; all I remember is that was next to Moscow on the Hill, which had a dangerously good selection of vodkas.), and once a few years ago in this new location. But it had been a while, and a bowl of noodles and veggies is one of my favorite things!

Erin and I had agreed to meet at 6:30 pm, but she texted around 5 and asked if we could meet at 6 instead. I was starving, so the new plan was great with me! Tanppo is next to the St. Paul Farmer’s Market, so I parked in my regular farmer’s market lot, across Kellogg Avenue from Tanpopo’s building. I think I had to pay $2 – yay for cheap parking in downtown St. Paul! I arrived before she did, and I appreciated a few moments to chill in the quiet, as-yet uncrowded dining room after a hectic day.

Inside Tanpopo

I really like Tanpopo’s dining space, despite the fact that all the window face north, so there isn’t much natural light. The high ceilings, spare furnishings, and funky art on the walls more than make up for it. It’s a calm, relaxing space.


Once Erin arrived and snapped a few pics, we settled down and reviewed the menu and wine list. We each ordered a glass of wine, and then debated what to get. At first I was going to get a teishoku – described as “A home-style meal; entrĂ©e, rice, miso soup, salad and a small dish of vegetables” – and Erin was thinking of getting one of the noodle bowls. But when the waitress came with our wine and took our order, we switched. I went with the Nabeyaki udon, which included shrimp tempura, chicken, shiitake, fish cake, Japanese omelet and wakame. Erin got the daily teishoku, which featured tempura shrimp.

Udon Noodle Soup

My nabeyaki was delicious! The broth was just salty enough, but not so salty it overwhelmed the other flavors in the bowl. The omelet was a nice addition – sort of the same effect as eating egg drop soup, but the slices were more substantial than the eggs in egg drop soup. And of course the noodles and veggies made me happy! I found myself wishing I had more than one piece of shrimp in my bowl, and one less piece of fish cake. The tempura was fried perfectly – crispy instead of heavy with oil – and soaked up some broth while in my bowl. Yum! The fish cake, which I’d never had before, was fine, but had an interesting texture – like a slice of very thick, gelatinous custard. After one slice I decided I could do without the second one. : ) My soup bowl was accompanied by a small bowl of red pepper flakes. I added a bunch to my soup, which rounded out all the flavors in the bowl.

By about 6:45, Tanpopo’s dining room was completely full. On a Monday night. In downtown St. Paul. In my mind, that’s a pretty impressive testament to Tanpopo’s popularity!

Service: Our waitress was attentive but didn’t hover so much that I was annoyed, which is my definition of success. Way to go, Tanpopo! Erin and I both enjoyed our food, and it was great to catch up, since I we don’t get to see each other at work while she’s out on maternity leave!

Food: Great (except for the fish cake, but that’s my issue, not the restaurant’s!)

Drinks: Fine. A few reds and whites by the glass, several more choices by the bottle, a few domestic beers, some Japanese imports, and some sake. No hard liquor, but would you want a mixed drink with a bowl of noodles? I didn’t think so.

Ambiance: As I mentioned above, I like Tanpopo’s space, and the noise level was great – Erin and I had not problem chatting non-stop!

Price: Perfectly reasonable.

Convenience: Easy access from I-35E, I-94, and Highway 52. If you’re coming from south Minneapolis like I was, it’s not the most convenient, but from anywhere else, it’s fine.


Tanpopo Noodle Shop

308 Prince Street #108

St. Paul