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Strip mall hosts Japanese cuisine variety

Bubble tea, a Taiwanese drink invented in the 1980s, became popular in Japan and China just 10 years later. Photo: Nick Zukowski

Whether you’re looking for authentic Japanese cuisine made-to-order or a place to buy ingredients to experiment in your own kitchen, the east end of Pelham Road is providing Greenville residents with a taste of Japan through two small businesses located in the same strip mall: Tanpopo, a Japanese grocery store, and Sushi Masa, a Japanese restaurant.

Tanpopo prides itself on being the only Japanese grocery store in Upstate South Carolina. At first glance, the store may seem small; however, its two aisles are packed with a variety of food, ranging from noodles and rice to candy and bubble tea. On the left side sits many of the ingredients for preparing food, and the right side contains mostly snacks, including chips and sweets. Additionally, two bookshelves filled with hundreds of used books and a rack of newspapers and other periodicals, all written in Japanese, sit toward the back of the shop.

Tanpopo has a rack of magazines and periodicals in Japanese at the back of the store, as well as two bookshelves filled with hundreds of used books for sale. Photo: Nick Zukowski

The groceries available at Tanpopo offer all the required ingredients to prepare Japanese-style food, including popular dishes like sushi and ramen, at home. The store also has a small selection of decorations and tea sets.

Sushi Masa, which is just two doors down from Tanpopo, is a Japanese restaurant that features both traditional Japanese cuisine and newer, Americanized variations on dishes. Sushi Masa, which was founded more than 20 years ago, describes itself as “one of the oldest authentic Japanese restaurants in the area.” Sushi Masa also uses and serves some of the products sold in Tanpopo, including a roasted green tea.

The restaurant offers a range of different styles and types of sushi, as well as noodles, soup and rice bowls. Their menu gives customers a large degree of freedom over what ingredients are used and includes several vegetarian options.

The takeout area has a separate door and is separated from the main area by a curtain. Customers can place their orders here, or, using the menu on the restaurant’s website, sushimasa.webs.com, they can also order takeout ahead of time over the phone.

Bubble tea, a Taiwanese drink invented in the 1980s, became popular
in Japan and China just 10 years later. Photo: Nick Zukowski

Renee Kalagayan, a junior communication major, described Sushi Masa as her favorite restaurant, and she said she has been a patron for years. “My father’s side of the family is Pacific Islander, so he has been going there for a long time,” Kalagayan said. “So, growing up, he would take me there a lot.”

Kalagayan also recommended the restaurant for other students wanting to try authentic Japanese food. “My regular order is a bento box,” Kalagayan said. “It comes with a salad, a meat with rice, crab cakes, a pickled fruit and also a bowl of miso soup, which is one of my absolute favorite Japanese dishes.”

Tanpopo is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays and from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday. Sushi Masa is open for lunch starting at 11:30 a.m. from Tuesday to Friday and noon on Saturday, closing at 2 p.m. each day. It is also open for dinner from 5:30 to 9 p.m. from Monday to Thursday and from 5:30 to 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. The restaurant offers customers both takeout and indoor seating. Because of its currently reduced indoor capacity, the establishment is encouraging patrons hoping to get a table to place a reservation by calling (864) 288-2227.