this post is just about Tampopo but I hope others will add in their experiences at any of the spots in the exchange.
Went to Tampopo for a late lunch today. Hadn't realized it's the same size as , and adjacent to, Sapporo, where we have been often. Combed through many previous threads and ordered accordingly. I really like it that they offer many of their entrees as 'sides', w/o the usual rice and salad that accompany them, so you can try a lot of things very reasonably by ordering them as sides.
In general, we found it tasty and the frying pretty good, but they really fall down flat in the sauce and stock and broth dept. If there were dashi in anything, I would be really surprised, yet dashi is the mainstay of Japanese cuisine. Go figure. So the tempura dipping sauce, the age dashi tofu broth, the udon broth- were a major disappointment.
Most of what we sampled were fried things:
--Fried chicken (nuggets, so to speak)- crunchy, moist and very flavorful served in a small pool of soy based sauce. I liked the Spicy over the regular.
--Fried octopus balls- Delighted to find these here. Flavor was fine but even my 'extra crispy' brought too-soft insides. Probably a lot of people like them that way; they certainly are creamy. I just happen to prefer them more done.Served w/ a very good spicy mayo and I requested their tonkatsu sauce as well.
--Fried croquettes- curry potato, and potato with beef// how can they know just the right amount of curry to flavor the mashed potato filling (I LOVED these!) but cook the beef filling with no onion or flavoring whatsoever?
--Veg tempura-would make a tempura chef very unhappy. Not soggy but a patchy coating and the need for change of frying oil really showed.
--Age dashi tofu- same problem w/ patchy coating, and had no ginger or daikon.
--Kimpiri gobo- gobo is one of my fav veggies and this prep wasn't memorable but it was still great to have it. Most Americans only know gobo as the pickled orange (dye) carrot-looking thing in some futo maki, but julienned and poached in a soy mixture , its simple nuttiness and crunch are highlighted.
-- Pork cutlet with curry udon- fried pork cutlet (kind of dry and flavorless to me but My Love had no complaints.)The udon was toothsome as always, w/ some broccoli, carrots and squash. The curry broth had a very appealing curry flavor but unfortunately, there was no hint of the flavor of an underlying broth.
I brought home a take out chicken version and I'm sure it will be great with some chicken demi mixed in.
Prices were very reasonable I thought. The udon dish was our most expensive (~$10 and it was a LOT of food!)the others ranged from~$3- $6 (for the 5 or 6 octopus fritters)
Waitress was pleasant and helpful.
I know they are really limited by their tiny cooking space, but I wish they could work out a swap deal with one of the other stalls: trade real broths for their potato croquettes maybe....