Sometimes, there are those meals that leave such a lasting impression, it makes me want to return the very next day. Conversely, certain meals are either so bad or mediocre, I do my best to avoid ever revisiting. Well,15 years ago, Tanpopo didn't exactly scare me off, yet it didn't elicit any great memories either. So I guess it was about time for another go at it. Again, AYCE Japanese would never be my first choice in quality eats, however, we had a large group and admittedly, AYCE was a good option. Think of if: controlled costs, as much as we could eat and there was a variety of items. Yes, AYCE and chain restaurants are really good for large groups - they really do serve a purpose!
For lunch, there are 2 menus available, one with sashimi and one without (difference of about $3.00). We went for the former. Arriving first were the "appetizers" consisting of Ebi Sunomono, Gomae, Ohitashi and Agedashi Tofu. The sunomono was actually pretty decent with cold-water shrimp and a dressing that was balanced in terms of vinegar and sugar. The noodles were chewy and served properly chilled. The gomae was lightly dressed while the spinach was nicely textured (not mushy nor too chewy). I kinda preferred the ohitashi more as it less sauced. The agedashi tofu was your typical AYCE version (plain). Moving along, we had the Fried "Scallops" (imitation) which were pretty much fried imitation scallops... The Gyoza were pretty weak as the bottom was not pan-fried enough while being greasy. The Tempura was equally greasy where the batter was not all that crispy. Although the Ika Karaage was crunchy, there was far too much salt in the batter.
As for the Sashimi, there was a choice of Pacific and Atlantic Salmon, Tuna, Hokkigai, Tai, Spicy Salmon & Tuna and Beef Tataki. We had all of it other than the spicy option. I found both types of salmon pretty good considering it was AYCE, yet the tuna was far too mushy (in a bad way). The hokkigai and tai were okay while the beef tataki was terrible. From the colour to the texture, it was all wrong. It was pale-looking and didn't have much flavour as it lacked dressing. Onto the Maki Sushi, we had a variety of rolls including California, Dynamite, Spicy Tuna, Salmon, BC and Asparagus. I found the rice to be quite dry and pretty bland. However, it was acceptable for this application. Hence, the rolls were not bad per se. Onto some more cooked items, we had the Tonkatsu, Oyster Motoyaki, Chicken and Beef Teriyaki. The tonkatsu was really crispy and somewhat moist. We liked how the sauce was served on the side rather than drenching the entire cutlet. On the smallish side, the oyster motoyaki was alright, although slightly dry. I found the chicken teriyaki better than its beef counterpart since it was moist and juicy with a crisp exterior. The beef was dry and stringy. The modest amount of sauce ensured neither were too salty nor sweet.
In terms of AYCE Japanese, Tanpopo seems to slots in as slightly above-average. Prices are decent considering it is located in Downtown and the food was acceptable with few, if any, inedible items (maybe the beef tataki). The service we received was not bad as our orders were mostly correct and expedited quickly. It's possible that it won't take another 15 years to return... But then again, I wouldn't put money on it...
- Okay eats for an AYCE
- Decent pricing
- Decent service
- Hey, it's on Denman, parking sucks
- It's AYCE, never can confuse it with great Japanese food