The all new ramen shop of the renowned chef Sotiris Kontzias has just arrived in Athens. And they serve some serious ramen dishes in quaint, unassuming interiors that resemble the vibe of a proper izakaya in Japan.
It’s more than 10 years since I first met Sotiris back in the π-box days in Kifisia when he was manning the kitchen and supplies at the famous outpost of Christoforos Peskias. And I still remember a noble face, a reserved figure and a very professional chef. Years went by with Sotiris venturing out on his own, opening two back to back hits with Nolan and Proveleggios (as well as Sweet Nolan recently) and the time has come for him to really go back to his roots with an authentic project that emanates the essence of Japan.
It’s a winter afternoon as we walk in to the unassuming interiors of Tanpopo (that’s Japanese for dandelium, the taraxacum plant) that just launched earlier in February 2023. It’s a rather small joint, featuring just 3 tables and a long counter going round the kitchen from one end to other with patrons sitting across all of the kitchen action. We take our seat, order a delicious Tanpopo negroni (featuring some cherry liquor) and dive in to the paper menu.
Just like any other casual joint in Japan, the place does not cater to pompous descriptions or high end typography; rather a simple list of 10 items that will surely drive your taste buds crazy. We note down our favourites and hand the menu to the kind staff that’s running around the newly launched spot like clockwork.
The list? A succulent beef tartare marinated in light mayo and served with a yummy egg yolk to begin with, together with a broccoli dish topped with tahini and almonds. Both of them are delicious and take us off to a great start! But only before the star of the day arrives: a lightly spiced mazemen dish (beans, egg yolk, minced meat and nori)… oh dear! What a treat!
Funky music is playing loud, there’s definitely some people watching as patrons go in and out and Sotiris is on full swing checking on service as a nicely organised team is prepping dishes inside the open kitchen. A few minutes later our pork gyoza arrive in 4 pieces that are perfectly crisp on the outside and tender on the inside. Alongside it, we try their kimtchi salad and to calm things down we combine it with some steamed rice.
We skip the fried chicken dish (although we hear it’s delicious) and instead focus on the main Shoyu Ramen with Chashu, marinated egg and enoki. The noodles are perfectly boiled, laying low beneath a delicious clear broth and a finely prepped slice of pork.
Now in the second negroni and exchanging pleasantries with Sotiris; about Thessaloniki, about life, about food. Promising we’ll sure be back. Very soon.
Hats off to a superb chef and team!