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Tampopo, Fulham Road SW10

Altogether Oriental: more than just a pit-stop for It girls and cool boys 

Over the past decade, noodle bars have sprung up all over London, the majority having the clinical and functional overtones of a school refectory. Although serving their purpose, they are not somewhere to linger - and are more about re-fuelling cheaply. Tampopo is different. Situated in the heart of 'The Beach', as this hip part of the Fulham Road is known, Tampopo has an intimate setting; with darkly lit, cosy corners and tangerine cylindrical lamps that reminded my guest of the Marlon Brando film, 'Tea House of the August Moon'. Orders are taken by electronic pad, making service quick and efficient with the bustling kitchen in view, whilst large, floor to ceiling windowpanes and bench style seating add a modern twist.

In the spirit of the 150-year-old Phuket tradition, Tampopo is offering a Vegetarian Festival Menu. Apparently, during this festival, held in yearly in Thailand, it is considered good luck to take part in all sorts of highly unappetising challenges, such as walking across hot coals! We decided that barbecued feet weren't for us…we'd just eat the food instead! This special menu is only a small part of the much larger selection on offer, both are made up of dishes from across Asia, including Japanese, Indonesian, Malay, Korean and Thai cooking. Alternatively, the full menu offers the adventurous rather exciting sounding concoctions, such as the Panang Curry, a fiery red and creamy coconut dish, scented with Asian basil and lime leaf, or, for those looking to stick to something a little more familiar, dishes such as Pad Thai - chicken or prawns served with sour-sweet noodles, peanuts and bean sprouts are on offer. However, if a full Eastern banquet sounds a bit much there is a selection of small dishes and salads to tempt even a delicate palate.

My vegetarian guest began with a miso soup. It was a very rich winter soup, with plenty of vegetable and seaweed content, possibly a touch too much salt and a disappointing lack of tofu. I chose Chao Tom, a Vietnamese dish of three deep-fried skewers of minced prawn with a touch of minced pork that came served with a sweet chilli dip. It was a generous portion, the prawn had a good flavouring of lemon grass whilst the chilli dip added an extra zing. There were only three white wines by the glass and we tried two of them;. I'd recommend the Carta Vieja Chilean Chardonnay with its very summery, fruity taste, - unexpectedly fresh, with a liquorish finish.

With such a huge choice of main courses there was temptation at every turn. Eventually I decided on a Malaysian Beef Rendang, strips of beef and sweet potato in a sweet soy sauce with a hint of chilli. This was rather disappointing. It came served tepid, the meat being a little on the chewy side whilst all round being rather bland. Looking at our neighbour's meal I felt quite jealous, he was merrily tucking into a Thai Pad Krapow, prawns quick-fried with red chilli and Asian basil. He said he was a regular there and highly rated the place. My guest had the Korean dish, Chap Chai, sesame-scented glass noodles with shitake mushrooms, cucumber, spring onions and a touch of chilli. It was a generous portion, the glass noodles being quite al dente providing a good contrast to the soft vegetables. He felt it could have done with a bit more seasoning to have given it some much needed zest. In fact, he had asked for some fresh lemon, but surprisingly, they had only limes. He also ordered a light and fresh tasting side dish of pak choi with yellow bean sauce, which we both enjoyed.

The dessert menu offers seven options, including traditional European puddings with an Asian twist, such as Ginger Crème Brulée and Passion fruit Syllabub. They all sounded distinctly tempting, but alas my guest doesn't do puddings, and I could only manage a mango sorbet, which scored highly in texture and flavour and was highly refreshing on the palate.

Next time you're cruising down Fulham Road's Beach, check out Tampopo for its stylish setting and interesting mix of Asian cooking at prices that certainly won't break the bank.

Louise Elgin. October 2004.

Tampopo 140 Fulham Road London SW10 Tel: 020 7370 7070

Starters £3.95 - £4.95
Salads £2.95 - £6.95
Soup noodles £6.50 - £8.50
Wok fried noodles & Stir-fried dishes all around £7.50
Puddings all around £3.25

Wine - by the glass from £2.85 - by the bottle from £10.95
Average spend: £15.00 (including drinks)

UK Restaurant Reviews – The Best Of The Dine Online Restaurant Reviews 2001 - 2010

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