Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Mini Foodventure #48: Tampopo (Rowland Heights)

This past weekend my friend and I were cravin' ramen in the San Gabriel Valley and feeling experimental, so we skipped Daikokuya, Shinsengumi, Ajisen and Foo Foo Tei (which we've tried and liked) to try one of the newer Tampopo branches in Rowland Height's Diamond Plaza (off the Fullerton exit on the 60).
The joint is at the far end of the strip mall plaza inside a food court that looked largely abandoned. We weren't sure if the lack of patronage is due to the customers being siphoned off by the other eateries, restaurants, boba tea houses and snack shops on the way to the food court (and there were plenty!) or if it, well, just sucks. Since we still wanted to try and check it off our list (i.e. too lazy to backtrack to the Foo Foo Tei in Hacienda Heights) we plop our tooshes down and ordered away. The service was typical of other ramen houses, friendly but not fussy (oh yea, and no screaming noodle cooks like Shinsengumi).

Feeling particularly porky, I got the chashu ramen . . .
. . . which I had mixed reaction about. As the picture shows, the chashu here is leaner than that of many other ramen houses; something I actually appreciate since I find most ramen chashu to be too fatty for my liking. However, it was also a tougher, dryer piece of pork and considerably over-salted. The rest of the bowl was solid but nothing to write much about: a rich, flavorful tonkatsu broth (that doesn't reek of MSG) and noodles that were just a smidgen past al dente.

My friend got the more fusion-y mapo tofu /w ground beef ramen:
It looked like what I would expect from a ramen spiced up with a helping of mapo tofu, then in went the spoon . . .
. . . and out came some unappetizing gloppiness. I had a taste and it wasn't bad (nowhere as spicy as I would've liked, though my friend said it's a slow heat that builds) but the gelatinous, goopy texture made it very weird to eat, rendering it more like a "Pho with everything plus tofu" than ramen. Overall, an ok but "once is enough" dish for me.

In conclusion, good enough to get me to go back if I'm craving ramen and in the area, but not so impressive that I'll go out of my way for it (unlike the aforementioned ramen places). The price (around $7 for the more basic bowls) is OK and the portions are decent.

A few other reviews:
from Yelp
from Go Ramen!
(who found the mapo ramen delish and the gyoza skippable)

Tampopo in the Plaza Walk in Diamond Plaza
1370 Fullerton Rd
Rowland Heights 91748

5 comments:

Kelvin said...

Other than Foo Foo Tei around the neighborhood, I will suggest giving Tamaya a try. I think you'll have a better experience.

Tampopo is sort of a chain store in many food court setting (e.g. Mitsuwa or Marukai), so I tend to stay away from them since their quality vary greatly.

Little Red Kitchen said...

eww, that gloopiness looks kinda gloopy!

Foodeater said...

I am amazed and delighted that there is a real restaurant called Tampopo! I would want to eat there just for the name! Of course I would have to eat some noodles, just like in the movie :)

Keizo said...

Thanks for the mention! It appears as though they've changed their soup base for the mabo ramen. It used to be really good, but when I went back a couple of months ago, the soup was a lot lighter than I remembered and definitely not as good. Just compare your pic to mine (even with my bad quality). It's a different breed. Anyhow, I agree with Kelvin that Tamaya is good other than Foo Foo Tei in the area. Thanks again for the referral! Love your dedication!

Keizo said...

I just heard that this Tampopo will be closing forever on June 1st. How sad...

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