Whether you took part in ‘Veganuary’ or not, there’s no escaping the increase in vegetarian and vegan options on the menu. Whilst this might be a nightmare for those who prefer meat and two veg, for those of us who already have a lot of veggies on our plates, or those who are shifting to meat free days, or an entire diet, it’s a welcome change.
Instead of always spying the ‘seasonal vegetables’ option for sides (often boiled to mush with a nob of butter), there’s a bigger selection, more creativity, more flavour. The same with actual dishes. We are slowly seeing the demise of the sole veggie addition being a vegetable lasagna or mushroom risotto (and the interchangeability of both) and much more thought and flavour being put on the plate.
One venue never short of flavour is Tampopo. Whatever is on the menu, meaty or meat-free, it’s tasty. And their collaboration with Jackie Kearney, means that some of the vegan options have her stamp on them. I say this as both a fan and a friend – she’s introduced me to jackfruit, heights of spice, and depths of flavour, all plant based. And whilst I’m not planning on going entirely meat free any time soon, I know that I can look to her for inspiration.
Over the last few weeks, Tampopo have been holding events to explore their vegan offering and to look to potentially change the menu a little. So of course, I volunteered both myself and Mr GFB to put them to the test. All five courses.
Beer in one hand, chopsticks in the other, we settled in.
Our first dish, a smashed cucumber salad with sweet and sticky tofu was simple, but tasty. I must admit to a love of deep fried tofu – crispy on the outside, soft and creamy in the middle and this slightly sticky, astringent salad really got the tastebuds going. It was good preparation for our second course.
This was just heavenly. Spicy Rebus Noodle soup, with curried sweet potato, chunks of tofu, and plenty of rich spice. Warming, thick, it was a dish that’s perfect for this kind of weather. Spicy comfort food – and I’m a sucker for noodles anyway, but I would happily order this. The crunch of the veggies, the nuts, the soft tofu, and warm spice make it a little addictive.
Next up a pairing of pretties. The lotus root salad:
With the jackfruit rendang:
The salad was fresh, and crisp, the lotus root with it’s distinctive aniseed flavour, and some more tofu for substance. It was for me, missing just a little something, I couldn’t put my finger on. Sweetness, a little acidity, it felt like it was 99.9% there, just lacking…. something.
By comparison, the rendang was heaven. Jackfruit is as close to a meaty texture as a vegetable can get, and it’s infinitely satisfying to eat. It feels substantial, and the spice was bang on, rich, but not overly so, lots of ginger and the light zing of lemongrass. I’ll have a bowl of that now thank you.
Our second pairing had us polarised.
The sweet potato katsu curry should be all I want, I love sweet potato and I love katsu, but I just can’t do it. I bite into the sweet potato and my subconscious expected chicken and I just end up feeling disappointed. This is the second or third try with this dish and I just can’t make it work for me. Mr GFB was more than happy to help me, as he enjoyed it heartily.
By contrast, I loved the charred bitterness, with the hot and sour stir fry. Astringent, dark, and with plenty of heat it worked well for me with the crisp vegetables. For Mr GFB it just didn’t work at all, and so we happily swapped plates.
Banana fritter with a crunchy nutty coating, served with mango sorbet. Creamy, soft, sweet sorbet, that speaks of heavily ripened mangoes, and a crunch covered chunk of banana. What is not to like?
The menu is delicious, and whilst I’m hoping that both the Rebus noodles and the rendang make it onto the menu, all the other dishes are available for you to sample now, and Jackie’s book of vegan street food is also available if you can’t make it to the venue.
Don’t miss out on these fantastic veggie dishes.
This meal and accompanying drinks were supplied for free by Tampopo. As ever, this doesn’t guarantee a positive review (if anything, I tend to be a harsher critic).
The food was genuinely excellent – the rendang is definitely going on my repeat order list, as is the noodle soup – subject to them both being added to the menu!