“College Jess” has always liked ramen when she was poor or drunk or a combination of the two. When I saw Tanpopo Ramen and Sake Cafe (893 Broadway, Albany), I couldn’t wait to have ramen made for me instead of heating it up in my microwave but what I got was far better than I could have expected.
/edit they also opened a second, Schenectady location.
To start, I obviously had to try some appetizers so I ordered steamed pork dumplings (Steamed or fried, 4 per order- $5), pork buns (Choose of pork belly or roast duck, 2 per order- $7), and haru maki ( Vegetable spring rolls, 3 per order- $4). When it comes to any kind of Asian food, dumplings/gyoza are my favorite so I never go into a restaurant that orders them and not try them for myself.
Though I enjoyed them, I didn’t find them any more special than other dumplings I’ve ordered. Same goes for the haru maki which, again, I found them incredibly delicious but there was nothing incredibly special that would make me have to order them again. In regards to the pork buns, it’s a whole different story.
I don’t know much about pork buns but there’s some crazy kind of delicious magic in these. The pork is juicy and incredibly flavorful. I don’t know much about the buns of pork buns but they have this interesting consistency that I’m drawn to. Every time I’ve been back since, I don’t leave without getting an order of pork buns and trying to talk the person I’m with out of wanting the second serving of it.
It came time to order the ramen and to be honest, I looked at the 6 different kinds and it was like reading another language. I didn’t know one’s difference from another so I asked the waitress for her recommendation which was to order the Tonkotsu Ramen (Pork bone marrow broth, Chashu pork, scallion, fish cake and kikurage mushroom- $11). Even having ordered it and reading it back, I’m still not too sure what exactly I ate, I just know that it was delicious.
One bowl was plenty to share between two people, especially knowing we were going to order appetizers. The other ramen options range from $11-13 & you also have the choice of Tokyo Wave Ramen Noodles or Thin Rice Noodles (Gluten Free). What I liked most about this ramen is that it’s not as salty as the store-bought brands I’m used to. If that’s the only idea you have in your head of ramen, you need to educate yourself as I did. There was more of a rounded flavor here. The pork was delicious and the mushrooms were a lovely touch. You can also add toppings for an added price if you catch something that you think would add to your bowl. Ramen not your thing? They also have a few different kinds of salads to choose from or Teppanyaki (a style of Japanese cuisine that uses an iron griddle to cook food).
Overall, if you’re in downtown Albany looking for an affordable, delicious dinner, don’t miss TanPoPo Ramen and Sake Cafe (and make sure you try the pork buns, let me know what you think!)