SEASON-INGS: The Dandelion Blooming in Upper Manhattan

There’s no doubt about it – ramen has taken the city by storm. With shops opening up from Brooklyn to Bayside, it seems like New Yorkers can’t get enough of the winning noodle-broth combination. While it’s the crowded streets of the East Village and Brooklyn that seem to be the site for much of the steamy action, one ramen store has appeared in the northern wilds of Manhattan like the harbinger of spring.

Enter Tampopo Ramen: an exciting newcomer to the Washington Heights restaurant scene. Under renovation for much of last year, Tampopo arrived just in time for Christmas 2015. Since then it’s been stacking up favorable revues on Yelp, offering a streamlined yet robust dining menu. Recent months have seen further additions, including an exciting sake and beer menu. It’s a sunny gift to the neighborhood – offering a refreshing alternative to Dominican and diner fair these uptown blocks are known for. Founded by longtime neighborhood residents Josh Frank and Nanae Mameuda-Frank, this restaurant is tucked away down a side street off of 181st street between the 1 and A trains.

Cozy and bright, Tampopo is just big enough for bar side eating and a few tables to spare. Immediately it brings to mind the opening scene of the movie Tampopo – the restaurant’s namesake, and the Japanese word for dandelion. Tampopo the movie, for those who haven’t seen it, is a classic film which tastefully blends comedy, drama, food, and suspense. (A cult classic, it’s surprising that no other ramen entrepreneur in New York City didn’t scoop up this name sooner!)

Now, with spring blooming full force, the owners are beginning to craft a summer menu. They’re hoping to offer hot-weather staples like hiyashi chukka or zaru soba. If you are in the mood for pork-based broth, look elsewhere! Tampopo offers the brighter, clean flavors of chicken- and vegetable-based ramen - and keeps it simple with Shio (Salt), Shoyu (soy sauce), and Miso broth. Yum yum!

Josh and Nanae’s road to Tampopo is a true New York story. As two life-long “foodies” they first got interested in the business about five years ago. Josh, a trumpet player with one foot planted firmly in the music world, snatched the opportunity for him and his wife to run the café at the DiMenna Center for Classical Music. Over the course of several years at DiMenna, the couple honed their craft while scaling up their business. During this time, they also opened onigiri (riceball) stands at farmers’ markets – helping them to garner a taste for New Yorkers’ palates.

The transition to the ramen world took place relatively recently, although the two have experimented for years at home. When they decided to take the plunge into an official brick-and-mortar, fate presented a small neighborhood establishment. As residents of Washington Heights for almost a decade, it made sense to give back to their neighborhood. The timing was good, too. With lots of young professionals moving north of the George Washington Bridge, there’s a need for diverse eating options in the Heights. So, adventuresome New Yorkers, take a trip up the A or 1 train and taste this new neighborhood treasure for yourself!

Learn more about Tampopo Ramen here.

Alexis SanbornComment