Don't let its size fool you. Tampopo may be one of many small Japanese restaurants along Lincoln Avenue in the Arcadia Terrace neighborhood, but its ramen is top-notch.
The secret is the owner's mom. Even though she's Korean, she learned from a Japanese chef.
"She used to work in another restaurant - they're closed now - but just before they closed, my mom asked the owner if he could teach us everything about ramen and noodles and things like that, and well, since he figured they were gonna be closing, they decided to teach us everything," said Daniel Choe, Tampopo.
The traditional cha shu ramen begins with a dark soy-inspired broth, poured over boiled egg noodles, then topped with hefty slices of cooked pork, seasoned with ginger. Crunchy, fresh bamboo is added to the soup, as are freshly-chopped scallions.
The Tampopo Bowl is a bit more unconventional - loaded with hunks of seafood, napa cabbage, carrots and bean sprouts, it's boiled briefly, covered by a makeshift wooden lid. Meanwhile, the ramen noodles are added to boiling water, to just for just a minute or two. A slightly beaten egg is added to the seafood broth, giving it some added richness.. along with a shot of sesame oil. The cooked noodles go into the bowl first, then the delicious seafood-vegetable broth is ladled over the top. It's a meal unto itself. Choe says there are two keys to making great ramen.
"I definitely think it's the soup and the noodle. The noodle can't be, you can't cook it too long, where it will become soggy. The soup, definitely the soup too."
They serve much more than just ramen at Tampopo, including lots of cooked items and sushi.
Incidentally, another one of my favorite food movies - made the same year as Tampopo - is "babette's feast" well worth a rental.
5665 N. Lincoln Ave.