BEST JAPANESE RESTAURANT - 2004
Tanpopo is counterintuitive, Tanpopo is intuitive. The little Lowertown full-service restaurant is counterintuitive because many of its defining qualities, such as being light, elegant, healthy, and serene, seem completely, completely incompatible with many of its other qualities, like being cheap, easy to get into, friendly, and low-key. But that's just how it is here, where you can sit in a white cathedral of a space, gaze into the many courses of your teishoku meal and know that you're spending a mere $8. (Try the heart-healthy saba meal, which features fried slices of Omega-3-rich mackerel, miso soup, a lively green salad, rice, and pickles. Or the earthy abundance of the wild mushroom udon soup, which features tender blanched spinach and light, sweet slices of omelet alongside the mushrooms.) Eight dollars for a big, healthy dinner and serenity is counterintuitive, right? But Tanpopo is intuitive, too; it's a place that serves calm and poise in little elegant portions, and, intuitively, we seem to head here whenever we want the wealth of the universe affirmed.