Last week, I visited Tampopo Ramen, a Japanese restaurant in the food court-like Plaza Walk building in Rowland Heights. Last night, I happened to wander by the area again and saw a sign in front of the restaurant that announced its closure on June 2.
Today, I called up the restaurant to confirm it was actually closing forever, not just on one day.
Yes, it’s true. They’re closing.
The person on the phone, who sounded like the owner, said he’s received many compliments about the food and condolences about their closing. The man said operating costs are high, as are the rent and parking fees. There’s another Tampopo Ramen in Gardena, although he’s not the owner-operator. The man says he doesn’t have any plans to open at another location this year. Their last day is June 1.
If you have time before June 2, check it out. I really enjoyed it, and even started writing a review for it for the Highlanders…
The restaurant’s main selling point, obviously, is ramen. With 14 different varieties, plus three additional cold noodle dishes, it’s probably a good idea to start with restaurant’s namesake.
Item No. 1, tampopo ramen, is served in a large bowl and includes a generous portion of noodles, bean sprouts, bamboo, a couple of slices of pork and a soup base made from pork and chicken broth.
Our waitress explained that “tampopo” means “pork and chicken broth,” but a quick Internet search failed to confirm her explanation. However, I did find a 1985 Japanese movie called “Tampopo” about an unlikely couple who search for the perfect ramen recipe.
I found the tampopo ramen’s soup a little bland, and the tasteless bean sprouts detracted from the overall flavor of the dish.
On the other hand, the tonkotsu ramen was everything that the tampopo ramen was not. The soup uses only pork broth and doesn’t come with bean sprouts. While the soup looks almost the same as the tampopo ramen, it’s is richer, creamier and much more flavorful.
Not in the mood for noodles? Try the mapo rice, a mild version of the Chinese dish mapo tofu. While the most of the heat is missing, this dish still packs plenty of flavor in a delicious, stewy mix of tofu, ground pork, carrots, mushrooms and green onions.
If you’re indecisive or like to try a little bit of everything, the menu has nice a section of combination meals that come with a bowl of ramen and one or two sides.
At $9.75, the the most expensive combo includes ramen, mapo rice and salad. Next, at $9.25, is a combo with ramen, chirashi sushi and tofu.
My meal — mini ramen, curry rice and salad — was only $6.75, which includes a $1 discount for being the “special of the day.”
1388 Fullerton Road, Rowland Heights
(inside Plaza Walk building)
Last day is June 1, 2008