I have always had a thing for Japanese culture, especially the food. So much so that I have visited Japan on numerous occasions. Sadly, this means that I rarely find Japanese food here that is up to scratch. Even a few of the higher-rated eateries tend to be a bit of a let down.
When I was looking for recommendations of places to eat in Sydney, Menya Mappen was suggested by Julie from I Dream in Chocolate. Despite my usual skepticism I decided to give it a go, hoping that perhaps Sydney would offer better Japanese than Melbourne.
Menya Mappen is set up as a self-service noodle bar. You choose one of the basic noodle bowls from the menu board in either small or large, help yourself to toppings and accompaniments and then pay at the end.
We both got the ontama bukkake soba ($4.90 small, $6.20 large), which consisted of soba noodles in a hot, soy-based broth with a soft slow-cooked egg. I chose to add two types of wakame seaweed (30c and 90c), enoki mushrooms ($1.50), tempura prawn ($2.50) and takoyaki ($2.00). I also set aside a daifuku ($1.50) for dessert.
The dashi-and-soy broth had good umami qualities without being too salty. The egg was soft, silky, and perfect. Overall my soup, topped with copious amounts of spring onion, instantly transported me back to Japan. It was very satisfying.
The tempura prawn was a bit disappointing. There was far too much batter, which was kind of doughy and not really that great. The takoyaki, surprisingly, was not bad considering it had been sitting in a warmer and was lacking mayonnaise.
The daifuku was beautifully soft. It wasn’t tough or overly chewy at all; it yielded gently to a generous amount of sweet red bean filling. A nice finish to the meal.
Menya Mappen was cheap, tasty and actually reasonably authentic. I very much liked the self-serve idea: it was quick, easy and meant that I could have exactly what I wanted. If I lived in Sydney this is the kind of place I could see myself popping into regularly for quick lunch breaks or lazy dinners. It’s a shame there isn’t one of these in Melbourne!Menya Mappen 537-551 George Street Sydney, NSW