Diego dearly loves his meat, but he’s no stranger to meatless cuisine (especially on Veg Fridays). Today, let’s have a look at one of Tōkyō’s better-known places of refuge for desperate vegetarians.
Name? T’s Tantan (T’s たんたん).
Speciality? Vegan/vegetarian noodles, specifically tantanmen.
Where? Inside Tōkyō Station, within the fare-paid area. Can be a bit tricky to find the first time. Tabelog’s map is a good starting point, along with the many English-language reviews already written about this store (more on that in “Links” below).
Operating hours? 07:00-23:00 (last order 22:30).
How much? Most dishes are in the 750-900 yen range (some are even cheaper).
English menu? Yes.
Links? The official site is here. As always, Tabelog has a wealth of information on this restaurant, though some knowledge of Japanese will come in handy. Fortunately, there’s a mountain of English-language write-ups and reviews for this particular shop – too many, in fact, for me to even attempt listing them here. Just Google “T’s Tan Tan” and click away.
Date of this restaurant visit? Friday, 14 February 2014.
I normally skip meat on Fridays (which I’ve labelled Veg Fridays), so it was with some relief when I learned of a rather well-regarded vegetarian restaurant in the heart of Tōkyō Station (just a short walk from my hotel). It wasn’t exactly served up to me on a silver platter, though. First of all, it’s located within the paid area of the station, which means that you’ll need a train or platform ticket (or a JR travel pass of some form) in order to get here. Secondly, it’s tucked away in a commercial area known as Keiyō Street, a part of Tōkyō Station I don’t remember visiting before (despite having caught trains here countless times over the past several years). Not hard to find when you know the way, but I had to ask for help from an information desk on this particular occasion.
Here’s a Google ground-level view to start you off (I’ve rotated it to face the restaurant); view it on Google Maps to see the exact spot.
Sweet, we made it. Dinnertime.
The setting is nice and casual, with both counter seats and tables available.
If you’re still unclear as to the type of cuisine on offer, have a glance at one of the green plaques on the wall.
Menus are available in both Japanese and English (the folder for the latter also seems to have Chinese translations).
I chose a set meal featuring their signature dish, T’s Tantan, served with a bowl of curry rice.
Before digging into the main course, I tried the curry first.
It tasted different from the non-vegetarian variety I’ve gotten used to. This meat-free version, whilst decent, seemed a little lacking in richness. The cherry tomato on top struck me as superfluous at first, but actually worked well with the rest of the dish, adding a burst of mingled sweetness and sourness that nicely complemented the flavour of the curry sauce. The rice underneath all this was perfectly al dente, just how I like it (others might prefer their rice softer).
Now for the main attraction. This is a simple dish of noodles in a sesame and peanut-flavoured broth with pak choi and ground soybean “meat” on top.
Not bad, not bad at all – but I was somewhat disappointed with the soup. It had a distinct peanutty taste, which was good, but lacked the richness that one might get from a meat-based broth or a stronger veg-based broth. With this flavour profile they might as well have called it “peanut sesame soup”, because it tasted of little else.
Now the soybean meat topping . . . mmmmm, that part was excellent. Its texture was discernibly non-meaty but wasn’t too far off, and it had a certain depth of flavour that the rest of the dish lacked.
The pak choi was nicely done, retaining a bit of crunch even after sitting in the hot soup for a while.
After working my way through the noodles, I tasted the soup one more time. My initial impressions were confirmed, although I did detect a hint of added complexity which I suspect was the flavour of the soybean meat blending with the soup base.
Prices seemed reasonable, though the portion sizes were a tad too small for me.
Overall, as far as this meat lover is concerned, I’d grant this one a passing grade and will be happy to stop by again the next time I happen to be in the neighbourhood.
(Only if it’s Veg Friday of course. Otherwise, I’ll be somewhere else feasting on meat until the cows come home – or not, because I’ll have eaten them already. Hardy har har.)