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Tampopo & Cafe Japonaise, Porter Sq Exchange, Cambridge


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Tampopo & Cafe Japonaise, Porter Sq Exchange, Cambridge

Limster | Jul 12, 2002 10:57 PM

At the Khao Sarn dinner, several hounds pointed me out to the Japanese food court in the Porter Sq. Exchange. Sis had also suggested it a while ago, and so I ate there this evening.

Given the non-stop action next to the deep fryer tempura and other batter-coated stuff seemed to be the focus at Tampopo, the 2nd from the last of the tiny Japanese joints. So I got their matsu bento, which allowed me to sample a sweet corn croquet (pretty good, although I've had creamier versions with sweeter nibs of corn), chicken kaarage (not much of a crust outside, but the chicken itself was satisfactory) and a basic panko coated prawn tempura.

On the side, short thin strips of hijiki (dark seaweed), broccoli dabbed on the crown with a sesame (and maybe peanut) paste, a soft and nearly liquid carrot stewed in a sweet soy broth of some kind (my favorite!), cool white cuts of cucumber, and a cube of amber gello suspending sweet chunks of orange.

Also provided: a serving of salad with a nice sesame dressing, and the standard miso soup.

On the whole, it wasn't a bad deal at $7.90 (not counting tip), but it wasn't the best either. Next time I'm going to try the una don at the busy stall next door in the far end.

On the way out, I stopped by an outpost of Cafe Japonaise. Zeb and I both had queries about the mothership in Brookline, and I figured this was worth trying.

The adzuki filled dount ($1.45) was a mixture of delight and disappointment. The filling was willing but the dough was weak. The bready shell itself was flat and compressed, missing the full bodied fluff. The rich adzuki filling, however, was lovely, with the finery of its texture unmistakable. It's perfectly smooth and without the least trace of graininess form the bean coats that can result if the beans are not ground finely enough. I suspect that the weakness of t he dough could be a freshness issue. Intriguing enough for me to hop on the T to Brookline to try it one of these mornings.

Also got a slice of well flavored green tea cake. This seem to fit the prototype of a Japanese confection. Pristine and clean lines of impeccable neatness separate the layers of cake and custard; it is cute and fussy at the same time. The cake layer isn't the most spongy around but the custard is thick and slightly resilent. Together they speak to the merits of composite materials in the realm of textural interplay.

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