People know Tampopo as the Japanese restaurant serving ramen, sushi, tonkatsu and Kurobuta dishes. It is so named after the Dandelion flower, which stays strong and beautiful even in tough environments, and the Japanese comedy Tampopo, about a ramen seller who overcame all odds.
“Staying strong despite all odds”, perhaps this can be used to describe Mr Takagi who started Tampopo as a small stall in Liang Court, and is now owner to a few restaurants.
Few would know that Mr Takagi is a man of simple innovation, always looking out for new products to feature in his restaurant.
He has the nickname of “Father of Tonkatsu” as he was the mastermind who brought tonkatsu out from Japan to Singapore way back in 1993. Same goes a new dish on its menu, layered Tonkatsu ($20.00-$23.00) pork which is popular in Yokohama, but seldom seen in Singapore.
The usual tonkatsu involves frying the entire piece of breaded pork, while the layered cutlet lines thinly sliced pork together into a single cutlet and deep fried. The result – you don’t get a tough piece of meat and instead a lighter and leaner version which does not feel as heavy.
Tampopo was also the first to introduce black pig kurobuta pork (which is known for its juiciness, flavour and tenderness) into Singapore in 2005. Prior to that Japan did not allow Berskhire pork to be exported to this part of the world.
I like how simple things are added to the dishes to enhance the taste and even efficiency.
Sometimes in other restaurants, we get fried items served on a separate dish, or worse within a soup dish where they would turn all soggy. Instead, the Fried Black Pig Koumi ($15.80) is served on top of a metal gauze attached to the ramen bowl. The fried pork still remains crisp, while all the ingredients are still served within the same bowl.
A simple but smart way! Trust the Japanese to come up with that.
7 years ago, Tampopo was already using a Point Of Sale system with a PDA device to enhance the ordering speed. Customers can request up to eight different preferences of their ramen (harder noodles, extra egg, no vegetables etc) and the order is sent directly to the kitchen via the PDA.
The time saved in serving is more than 5 minutes. Time wastage is prevented in walking towards the kitchen to pass food order then to cashier passing the order chit. Hence the system has helped them to immediately attend the next customer without holding the previous customers’ order. The kitchen can also immediately prepare the order upon receiving.
How many times have you ordered something until you found out much later it is sold out?
At Tampopo, there would also be times when certain items are not available and the service staff may not be informed at the point of time especially peak period. The server can immediately inform the customer as the POS system has the “sold out” function.
Many restaurants also have customer feedback forms to know where to improve. Guess where Tampopo prints their forms? At the back of the disposable chopsticks cover. That is both money and the trees saved!
A few weeks back, labour chief Lim Swee Say created quite an online buzz revolving around the simple toothpicks – on how restaurants Din Tai Fung could be customer-centric in its attention to subtle things, from quality of food down to the finest details.
Whether it is toothpicks, chopsticks cover, or metal gauze, that to me is paying attention to details. It’s the simplest things that make all that difference.
Tampopo Restaurant Liang Court
#01-23/24 Liang Court 177 River Valley Road (10 min from Clarke Quay MRT) Tel: +65 6338 3186
Opening Hours: 11:30am – 10:00pm