I needed to buy some stuff, so after working late last night I headed for the Trafford Centre. Regular readers (by regular readers I mean people who mistakenly click on the Twitter links and end up here again) may recall that I don't much like the Trafford Centre, but on a Tuesday evening it's a far more amenable prospect than on a Saturday afternoon. I bought the stuff I needed and on account of having no food in the house, decided to stop for a bite to eat.
I've been to Tampopo before on a couple of occasions, and have generally left satisfied so I thought I'd give it another try. It's a canteen sort of place with bench seating very much in the Wagamama sort of style, and covers similar ground with the food as well. The menu is fairly extensive, but sticks quite sensibly to dishes from South-East and East Asia which at least have common themes, rather than randomly selecting dishes from all corners of the globe like another local chain whose name I won't mention. I ordered the Laksa with a portion of Goi Cuon on the side.
The Goi Cuon (Vietnamese summer rolls) were lovely and fresh tasting as they should be, with plenty of crunchy vegetables, but not as good as the real thing which usually have prawns or pork or both in them as well. This isn't really a criticism though, as they are advertised as a veggie version on the menu.
The condiments provided at the table are worth a quick mention at this point, as they are a good basic Asian selection; - Kikkoman soy sauce, Ketjap Manis (a sweetened, syrupy Indonesian soy sauce) and Sriracha Hot Chilli Sauce (a Thai classic). Some combination of these three will liven things up if your meal is a bit dull.
The Laksa was a decent effort. Laksa is a dish of noodles in a rich, heavily seasoned coconuty, curry broth with some sort of protein and assorted veggies. The broth was a bit underpowered, it needed a good squirt of Sriracha as it was a lot milder than the 'three chilli' warning on the menu would suggest. It was also too sweet. Having said that it also had some fine attributes. Many of the extensive range of flavours often found in food from the Malay peninsula were present including coriander, mint, lime leaves, garlic, chillies, coconut and even a hint of pungent shrimp paste. Prawns, tofu and chicken provided the protein, with cucumber, red onions and breansprouts on the veg front. All were fine except the chicken which seemed to be rather poor quality and tasteless. The whole made for pleasant if unspectacular eating.
In summary my opinion of Tampopo hasn't changed much after this visit. It's a decent option. I'd rather eat there than most of the other places in the Trafford Centre, but it's overpriced. Any small independent restaurant doing the same sort of food (I could name Vietnamese, Chinese, Malaysian and Korean places that fit the bill) would generally charge in the region of £5 - £8 for a dish like this, whereas I paid £10.75 at Tampopo. Any dish costing over a tenner at Middle Kingdom or Hunan would be served in something the size of a household bucket, and have about a kilo of meat in it. In total I paid £18.25 for the food, a lime soda (£1.90!) and service. Ok, but I wouldn't make a special trip.
Plus various other branches