Menya Mappen, Sydney CBD

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

There is nothing quite like the sound of slurping noodles, or men (めん) in Japanese, at a meal time. There is no food group that is quite like the humble noodle. Whether eaten in a hot soup, served cold with a delicious dipping sauce, or fragrantly stir fried, noodles are a carbohydrate that I will never get sick of.

So, it makes sense that a restaurant would specialise in everything to do with the noble noodle. In Japan, there are four main noodle types: the well known udon and soba, as well as the yellow ramen noodle and lighter somen, which is not unlike vermicelli. At Menya Mappen, down towards the Chinatown end of George Street, udon and soba are the go-to.

The sheer size of the menu may leave you a bit befuddled as to what to order. First, decide your preferred sauce or soup base, then your noodles, and finally the toppings. Choose from three different broth bases to accompany your noodles: bukkake, a sauce of dashi and soy; kake, a soup form of bukkake; and tonkotsu, a creamy, pork-based soup.

With wallet-friendly prices and a wide range of toppings to suit all tastebuds, there’s not much to hate about this casual, canteen-style eatery. Unless you dislike queues at lunchtime, that is.

Add what you like, self-serve style, from the line-up of fried goodies which stretch across the main length of the servery. With morsels such as prawn, fish cake and vegetable tempura, takoyaki, karaage, and even fried frankfurts, there’s something for everyone. There are also mini tempura and rice bowls for those who like a little variety. At the end of the line is a small, refrigerated cabinet which houses tiny containers of noodle toppings like seaweed, corn, bamboo and kimchi, as well as a small range of snack-sized desserts.

Kimchi and seaweed topping
Those looking for a cheap eat should be wary that adding too many extras (which tempt you as you progress along the line to the till) may cause the price of your meal to creep unexpectedly upwards. It's easy to become transfixed by the variety of offerings available! 

Green tea slushy ($3.30) and apple cider
At the start of the line is a DIY slushy machine which, when we visit, houses green tea slushy. This icy cold drink is the perfect cheap anecdote or sweet fix for a hot day (or any time!). It is on the sweeter side, however not as sweet as the homemade apple cider, which is more like concentrated juice than cider.   

Kake Soba (regular $3.90) with kitsune and seaweed toppings
Are you a fan of soba or udon? I must confess I used to be an udon devotee, however the nutty, wholesome flavour of these buckwheat noodles, in a light kake broth, opened up a whole new world of noodle for me. The simplicity of this soup really lets the soba shine. The fried tofu sheet topping (aburaage) transforms what would otherwise be a plain meal into kitsune soba, which translates into fox udon. Legend has it that fried tofu is said to be the fox's favourite food! 

Tonkotsu Deluxe (regular $8.90)
This creamy, transparent soup is a lot lighter than the similarly named ramen base, with a more diluted flavour and bamboo, pickled mustard greens, a few pork slices and a black garlic and sesame oil. Being heavier than the kake and bukkake soups, it is a lot more filling and does not suit the thick udon noodles as well as the sturdier egg noodles you would have with tonkotsu ramen.

Chikuwa (fish cake) tempura ($2.20), ebi (prawn) tempura ($2.80) and vegetable kakiage ($2.50)
While many are familiar with prawn tempura, chikuwa is less well known. This Japanese style fish cake has a slightly rubbery texture, similar to that of calamari. The vegetable kakiage has a chewy interior, although not as crisp as it could’ve been, having sat out for a bit too long. Don't forget to grab a bowl of tempura dipping sauce while you're in the queue!

Chicken karaage, takoyaki and red bean pastry
Although the chicken karaage doesn’t look like a big piece, it’s more filling than you’d expect, with a succulent brown meat and good amount of seasoning. The takoyaki is soft and generously peppered with bonito flakes. However, it is the fried adzuki pastry – a kind of rectangular red bean turnover – which steals our hearts. It’s earthy, slightly nutty and manages to be simultaneously soft and crispy all at once.

Red bean and black sesame daifuku
Daifuku, a type of filled mochi, is a ball of glutinous goodness dusted with toasty black sesame and filled with a sweet red bean paste. It’s stretchy, chewy, and the perfect way to end the meal, with just the right amount of sweetness.  

With longer lines during the peak of lunch time, it's wise to arrive a little earlier to avoid the anxiety of finding a seat after you've paid (you must first pay before you're able to bags a seat). That being said, Menya Mappen is the ideal place for a deliciously cheap and quick feed, especially for all you noodles lovers out there. 


Mappen Noodle Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Maddie dined as a guest of Washoku Lovers, however opinions are her own. 

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  1. mmm~~ that big sheet of bean curd!! :D
    and green tea slushy, I don't recall seeing that!

    1. The bean curd sheet made all the difference! And the green tea slushy was so refreshing :D

  2. DIY tempura is totally my weakness. Love how fast and cheap this place is!

    1. Totally agree - the best place for a quick, wallet-friendly lunch! And so much to choose from!

  3. I haven't been here in ages! Hahaha I always order the daifuku at the end. I'm with Helen, DIY tempura is awesome!