Tampopo is a name synonymous with black pig. The Japanese chain has its humble roots hidden away in a little corner of the Liang Court food basement (where many Japanese expats go to for their Japanese food fix) and been around long before the ramen fad, so it's definitely garnered its fair share of loyal devotees. It's since expanded out of the food basement into the Ngee Ann City restaurant level at the 4th floor and well as the very-visible glass-enclosured 1st floor of Liang Court facing the Clarke Quay godowns. They serve mostly carb-based, black pig-centric dishes here, with a decent selection of sushi and sashimi. Best to stick to the black pig carb dishes though, the fish-based dishes aren't particularly outstanding. The raw fish isn't bad, but repeat customers don't exactly head to Tampopo for the sushi, if you get what I mean.
For those who aren't familiar with the concept of "black pig" and are a little grossed out by its name (because, face it, the name, "black pig", doesn't exactly make one salivate in anticipation), don't worry. Black pig just simply refers to pigs that are black in colour only on the outside. The meat inside is still pink, albeit a slightly darker shade of pink. Meat from black pigs are prized because they have a lower fat content but are tastier, but not in a "porky" way, just a fresher, less "smelly", more palatable taste of pork.
Although many of their customers swear by Tampopo's ramen, I personally feel that their black pig tonkatsu cutlets are the best thing here. Tampopo's ramen fares okay but isn't super impressive, there are definitely better ramen stalls.
Tampopo specializes in 2 different types of ramen, the southern Kyushu and the northern Hokkaido versions. The Original Kyushu Ramen ($13.50), with its distinctive milky collagen-rich pork bone-based tonkotsu broth and thinner springier noodles, uses typical accompaniments such as tiny fish roe, soy braised egg, black fungus and soy braised sliced pork. The good thing about the broth was that it didn't leave a milky film on the tongue. The bad thing about the broth was that, like almost any other tonkotsu broth, it got cloying about halfway through.
I opted to add a portion of Sweet Corn ($1.50) and minus off the spring onions.
The Deluxe Hakodate Ramen ($16.30) is characterised by thicker, slightly softer noodles, and a less milky shoyu-infused seafood-based stock that's oiled up with a knob of butter, and this is usually chunked up by bamboo shoots, sweet corn kernels, seaweed, soy braised egg and pork. Somewhat lighter than the Kyushu tonkotsu broth, but also got cloying after a while with its overtly rich umami flavours.
Thank goodness the Stir-fried Mixed Vegetable & Black Pig ($8.80) went sparingly on the soy, this was refreshingly delicate and nuanced, with clean uncomplicated flavours and lots of crunch.
177 River Valley Road
Liang Court Shopping Centre #01-23
Tel: 6338 3186
Open daily from 11.30am to 10pm