Tanpopo Noodle Shop
308 Prince Street
St. Paul, MN 55101
Remember how I said I often crave Americanized Chinese food at any given time? I always crave Japanese food. No matter the time, date, place, or weather, I find comfort in Japanese food. And after I eat Japanese food, I literally beam with joy.
When I interned at Redeemer Center for Life, I facilitated cooking lessons with children from the after-school program. We learned how to cook foods from different cultures, while parents and neighbors often served as guest chefs. A friend taught us how to make miso soup with pork and gyoza. I have tried to replicate the handmade gyoza filling and wrappers on my own with minimal success.
One evening, a young man who worked in the after-school program helped me cook bolognese sauce. To my dismay, he added a melange of seasonings while my back was turned. After dinner, many children complimented the sauce as the best they’d ever tasted. Upon later investigation, I discovered that MSG was a major component of the mystery spice blend.
Typically, I have fulfilled my cravings for Japanese food by enjoying Obento-Ya’s happy hour with friends, and enduring long wait times for dinner. Despite multiple lengthy wait times in Obento-Ya’s crowded entryway, Jake and Jeni still can’t remember to make reservations. Friday evening, we ventured to Lowertown to try Tanpopo Noodle Shop for the first time. At 7:30 p.m., the restaurant was fairly slow and we were seated immediately.
To begin, we ordered a couple shot-sized servings of cold Sake. To the right is the nama honjozu , shunsetzu “Spring Water,” $2.75, and to the left is the tokubetsu junmai, housui “Fragrant Water,” $2.85.
The “Spring Water” was smooth and slightly sweet. Jake’s serving of “Fragrant Water” had sweet and sour notes as described by our waitress, and a little more bite. Generally, I prefer warm sake.
At first bite, I adored Tanpopo’s Spinach with Sesame, $5.75. Tender, lightly-cooked spinach was combined with a “freshly ground sesame sauce.” The nutty, slightly-sweet sauce tasted well balanced and gave this cold salad an addictive quality.
One of my other favorite foods in the whole, wide world is Agadashe Tofu, $4.75. Four-five pieces of fried tofu arrived in our order, sitting in a mild broth. Unlike versions I have previously enjoyed, the portion of tofu was both generous, and showered with chewy bonito fish flakes that tasted of smoke.
Jake ordered a bowl of beef udon soup, $8.95, described as “simmered beef with onions and wakame.” Jake and I savored the delicious soup broth which embodied richness and lightness, simultaneously. The broth’s oniony sweetness distinguished the soup from others. We slurped chewy udon noodles and tender slices of slow-cooked beef that reminded me of beef brisket and pot roast.