Sunday, 3 June 2012

Tan Po Po

Tanpopo on Urbanspoon
Food: fills you up, nourishes, makes you happy (well, makes me happy), makes you sleepy as hell (again, maybe it's just me).

I fell into a sleep coma right after a bit less than quite crap buffet breakfast. The food wasn't particularly up to standard for its price but it's a buffet after all, with that magic word switching my brain to an eat-more-than-I-can-handle stance.

That day, I woke up, ate, slept, woke up, ate, slept, woke up, ate, slept. Do you smell Snorlax?
Quite a productive day, no? My past life as this pokemon is still evident in my current life. Not good.
I may sound like the biggest, laziest slacker but the truth is...
I am.

Given the menu full of sample pictures, I told my stomach to calm down and shut the hell up. After a lengthy conversation with my brain, I finally came to an unsure, rushed decision on what I was going to order, making a mental note to come back another time to try what I couldn't today.

Tuna & Salmon Sashimi
Rule numero uno at a Japanese joint is: TRY THE SASHIMI.
In fact, rule number one anywhere for me is TRY THE SASHIMI. I've fallen into a deep lustful attraction with this fresh deepwater fish.

This is listed on the menu as the Sashimi set served with rice & salad for $8.80. The waitress who took my order must have noticed my agony in trying to choose so suggested that I could have this without rice & salad, for $2 less.

And who wouldn't pounce at $6.80 for 12 pieces of this? We then realised this lessened price meant lessened sashimi - thickness & freshness. It wasn't too bad, but lacked the smooth textural sensation you get from thick cut slices. You really can't ask for much at that price.

Tanpopo Bento Box (Fish Teriyaki) - $9.80
The abundance of Japanese eateries scattered around means they'd need to distinguish themselves. Some choose to position themselves to the higher end with premium prices while others build their business around budget, wallet friendly prices and appealing to patrons like myself - a perfect representation of a poor person who blows all their money on food.

Very filling, Tan Po Po's version of a Bento box has it all - variety, value and COLOURS! And at such a good price, it's a happy (and legit!) steal. Described as a Japanese style lunch box, it includes your main meal choice, 2 golden crumbed pieces of prawn on a bed of cabbage, mixed greens, rice, miso soup, pickled ginger and edamame - the inedible soybeans in a hairy pod.

I'm not going to describe the first time I tried to swallow these - whole - because it's only a little embarrassing. Lets just say, I swallowed the outside as well, with a lot of difficulty and grunting about how chewy it was. I am now a little more brighter than that.

Una Don - $9.50
You'll need to have a tolerance for sticky, slimy textures to like eel, or just have an acquired taste for it. Having said that, one might think, and why should I even want to like sticky and slimy food? Why, for the love of eel of course!

Eel prepared the Japanese way pretty much follows one single homogeneous preparation method across the cuisine. Eel is typically grilled with skin on the underside still in tact, with a sweet smoky sauce served on plain white rice, acting as a perfect sauce absorber. Tan Po Po calls it special sauce, but I don't taste the difference.

Simple, but goes a long way to satisfy. I like eel for its very characteristics that others dislike about eel, namely its slight mushiness, slippery softness and thin bendable bones that are completely edible. I've had a bad experience with fish bones jabbed in my throat and using unsuccessful methods like gulping down unchewed rice and whole bananas to push it down.

After all that, I've learnt that 1). Tweezers are your best bet; and 2). That you should actually chew before you swallow. I was still mindless at age 7!

Curry & Rice
On a hot day, curry sounds less than attractive but Japanese curry is mild and won't add hotness to the hotness already in the atmosphere. Priced at around the $6 mark, I'd prefer to get something else or pay more for better curry.

Too little chicken, too much sauce, and unfortunately little old Goldilocks here couldn't say it was just right. Overall an average curry, bordering disappointing.

I understand that you get what you pay for, but with all the other more generous dishes that Tan Po Po offers at bargain prices, this is hardly worth it. Their menu states this is specially cooked curry with chicken & veges and served with rice & salad. Sadly I'd have to make modifications to that description to normally cooked curry with limited chicken shreds and vegies served with rice and grainy salad. A pity, because I was enjoying that carelessly washed tangy salad before that horrific CRUNCH of crispness in your mouth. It was sand.

Seaweed Salad
With a reasonable price of around $3.50, this becomes a good side dish in addition to your main meal. A light, crunchy texture of green seaweed strips tossed through with sesame seeds and fragrant sesame oil - and may be slightly addictive.

Its never really served in big portions, so the dainty small serving of it always leaves you with not enough.

Udon Noodles
Udon has been a childhood favourite of mine that is slowly starting to disappear. Thick chunky flour noodles in a soy flavour soup is served with your choice out of chicken or beef, with simple green garnishes of seaweed pieces and spring onion.

To me, udon can never really stand out from any other bowl of udon due to its plain simplicity. It is good on its own, just not distinguishable. Quite a decent sized bowl for it's price though, also around the $6-$7 mark.

I'd have random cravings for it sometimes when I'm in the mood to slurp and suck.


It is good to associate Tan Po Po as a cheap and cheerful little establishment, similar to what Taka dishes out but less the feeling of a mass production style of cooking and that get in and get out way of dining. Catering to a crowd who is on a mission to have decent food that doesn't bust their budget, it does well in that aspect. Groundbreaking quality food with such a low price tag, it does not do well, and it shouldn't be expected to. Have suitable expectations and you won't be disappointed. Gotta be keepin' it real :-)

Portion wise, good if you're playing a bit of portion control game with your diet and also good for its pricing. Pictures are ACTUALLY accurate representations of the food you get served, no misleading depictions here. How many times does your Big Mac actually look as majestic as the picture you see? Reality check.

It's in a pretty prime location being on the Beaufort Street eating strip but if you're not the lookout for it, you'll miss it. I guess it goes unnoticed among the rest of the competition on that street - even primer than its prime location would be somewhere in the CBD where demand for good value Japanese food is plentiful and unsatisfied.
(I still grieve for Mr Samurai on Barrack Street. It was sad to see you go!)

With Japanese tea house under their shop name, it hardly looks like what you'd imagine it to be. It is small and a little dainty, but depending on which side you're facing in its interior. Ambiance wise, it has but also lacks at the same time. "BUT HOW?!" you wail.
Ornaments adorn the entrance with limited stools and tables but walking towards the counter, the shop gets progressively shabbier with some parts of the dining area doubling as their storage room.

I was looking forward to my second, third, numerous times to coming back to slowly work through their whole menu but my second visit put a sudden halt to my adventures. With my digestive system nowadays I can't accurately shift the blame to the restaurant, should I get poisoned. But the curry DID taste suspicious and the BOTH of us did get a stomach ache afterwards. I haven't been back since, with the fear of seeing my food long after I consume it. 

BUT (a big but!) I'll give it the benefit of doubt and say we were probably just unlucky. I'll be baaack.

Closed Sunday
(08) 9328 8313


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