If you’re looking for a special evening out in Saint Malo and want to try something different, head to Tampopo in the walled city (Intra-Muros). I’ve been dreaming about going there since last November when my Japanese friend sent me photos of her Shogayaki Teishoku night out and I started hunting for local Japanese restaurants. I wanted a chance to try something other than sushi and yakitoris without having to get on a plane. Tampopo is not your traditional French Japanese restaurant–to begin with, it’s not a sushi bar and the chef is actually Japanese! Instead, the owners, a husband-wife team, take local Breton produce, fish and meat and give them a Japanese touch! Dashi, saké, soy sauce and wakame seaweed meet asparagus, veal, crab and turnips!
Each month, Naoko et François Evangelisti offer a 7-course themed tasting menu for their guests (41€ per person plus drinks). We took a “Promenade de l’arrivée du printemps” for our anniversary, a chance to taste spring’s bounty if you will. Expect to spend 3 hours discovering the different dishes at a relaxed pace with plenty of time to enjoy your dinner companion’s company. (If you are looking for a quicker and cheaper meal, they offer a bento lunch for 21€ on Thursdays, Fridays, Sundays and public holidays.)
The restaurant is intimate and painted in neutral tones with a few discreet Japanese prints adorning the walls. Due to its small size, I would recommend reserving. While there are a couple of tables downstairs by the entrance, the main seating area is on the first floor. Last night, the room was full. We were one of five couples and one group of four friends enjoying a culinary trip together. We were also not the only ones taking photos of our food; although Anthony was the only one complaining that he didn’t have a tripod on him! While Naoko runs the kitchen, François takes care of diners and introduces the various dishes. His explanations, humor and smile put everyone at ease, Naoko’s food does the rest! The food is light, healthy and delicious.
One of the nice things about a set menu is that it forces you to try new things. I can honestly say that I would never have tasted, much less ordered, at least two of the dishes if I had been given a choice. It would have been my loss too! Our dinner started with a Japanese aperitif and chicken liver mousse served on a rice galette with beets, a grilled sardine and asparagus. I have to admit that I tend to avoid anything with liver in it so I was a bit nervous when it arrived. It was delicious. I ate it in layers. The only utensils available were chopsticks and a Japanese soup spoon. François did offer a fork to the man at the table next to us (which he declined) so don’t despair if your chopstick skills are lacking. Each of the dishes was a discovery. The stuffed omelet wrapped in a cherry leaf stands out in my mind as well as much for its taste as for the difficulty I had in eating it with chopsticks. I managed to “cut” it into pieces with my chopsticks but I’m not sure how graceful I looked! Naoko’s miso seasoned veal was a clear standout–each bite practically melted in my mouth and the accompanying vegetables were cooked perfectly. I wasn’t as impressed with the two fried snails served alongside the veal (too chewy), however, Anthony loved them. We finished our evening off with a steamed matcha cake and a white chocolate Armignac mousse–the night’s only calories–before heading home with the vow to come back again!
Tampopo, 5 place de la Poissonerie, Saint Malo. 02.99.40.87.53
Promenade de l’arrivée du printemps
- Mousse de foies de volailles
- Soupe d’algues wakame fraîches et foie de lotte
- Sashimi de carrelet et seiche façon du chef Naoko
- Feuille de cerisier, cocos, et crabe
- Veau au miso et escargots
- Riz et navet nouveau
- Dessert du jour