Menya Mappen

October 27, 2015

Menya Mappen needs no introduction as it is one of the top picks for those desiring a cheap and satisfying feed and fulfils those criteria with ease. It differs by being a self-serve restaurant and was the first one of its type to set up shop in Sydney. If the lines during peak dinner time are anything to go by, its popularity hasn't dwindled ever since opening which was quite a few years ago. I recall frequenting here back in my uni days for a filling meal that wouldn't break the bank and now and again I would visit just to get my udon fix. 

A self-serve noodle bar with a retro feel
Bright and colourful menu
There were seriously so many options, I had trouble making a decision. On top of the three broths to choose from (tonkotsu, kake and bukakke) you also have a choice between udon or soba noodles which Yuri mentioned are made from scratch in a factory located in Marrickville so you know for certain you'll be getting authentic noodles and none of that pre-packaged instant stuff one can easily find at Asian grocery stores. If you want the healthier option, get the soba which is a thin noodle made from buckwheat with a nutty flavour, otherwise, if you want thick, soft and chewy noodles then udon, made from wheat flour, is the way to go.

Assortment of hot sides
After grabbing your tray and ordering your bowl of noodles, you will then be presented with a substantial assortment of deep-fried or grilled sides ranging in price from $1.20 to $2.50. Since the sides can potentially be left out to sit on the counter for some time (unavoidable for a self-serve type eatery) the crunchiness of the tempura would be sacrificed, although for the price, one can't really complain.

Vegetable fish cake $2.40
 Skewers of sausage tempura, vegetable fish cakes and takoyaki were super tempting and I decided on some takoyaki.

Sweet potato and pumpkin tempura $2.50 and fish cake tempura $2.20
We also ended up with one of each of these.

Cold sides
Next up was the cold section which to be honest I never took much notice of during my previous visits. It housed a variety of toppings such as seaweed, grated white radish, sansai (vegetables), bamboo shoots, chuka wakame (type of seaweed), homemade kimchi, sweet corn and marinated pork cha-shu. They also had potato salad, natto and mochi. Having heard quite a few things about natto I was eager to try it so Yuri happily grabbed a container of natto for me and also two mochi balls for dessert.

Cheap, yummy and filling meal for 2 people
The natto came conveniently packaged in a polystyrene container with a packet of soy sauce and mustard. Yuri kindly demonstrated how to prepare it and involved simply adding everything in and then mixing extremely thoroughly with a pair of chopsticks. 

Yuri showing us the consistency of natto after mixing
Yuri said to prepare natto correctly, it needs to be mixed at least 100 times to attain the appropriate consistency and taste. The stringy and slimy texture was fascinating and without Yuri's knowledge I wouldn't have known to mix it to such an extent. Natto is made from soybean fermented with a beneficial bacteria called Bacillus subtilis and during this process, an enzyme called nattokinase is produced. The vigorous act of mixing produces sticky strings that are mainly comprised of polyglutamic acids. Natto is very nutritious, is cholesterol-free and has cardiovascular benefits due to the presence of nattokinase.

Natto is definitely an acquired taste as it has a peculiar smell to it and pretty slimy. It was my first time to try natto and I was curious about it after watching Benji from itsjudyslife have it for breakfast on a frequent basis. I'm reluctant to admit that I didn't enjoy it as much as I had hoped as it had a pungent chemical taste that wasn't masked by the soy sauce and if anything was enhanced by the mustard. I struggled to finish it but did manage to eat more than half. Despite everything, I am willing to give it another shot but with a bowl of rice which is how it is commonly eaten in Japan. 

Apple Cider
I could definitely detect undertones of cider but being quite minimal it tasted predominantly like apple juice. It was a bit too sweet for me unfortunately.

White grape juice
I really liked this drink as the grape flavour was so intense and brought back childhood memories of grape-flavoured Hubba Bubba which was my favourite. 

Mt. Beef Soba
Yuri recommends the soba noodles which was DT's choice. Having the chilled version was perfect for the hot weather and would be especially awesome in the summer when having a hot soup dish may not be the most desirable meal. There was certainly a mountain of beef given making it excellent value for money and also for upping that protein intake. Texture-wise the soba noodles had really good bite, I thoroughly enjoyed the slight chew to them and the dipping sauce was a pleasant and subtle way of incorporating flavour and making the noodles just much more slurpable and delicious.

Soba noodles with dipping sauce
Soba dipping sauce usually comprises a mixture of mirin, soy sauce, sake and dashi. It was very light and didn't overpower the noodles. You are only required to gather a few strands of soba with your chopsticks and briefly submerge them in the sauce before slurping the noodles up. Very delicious and made all the difference in taste.

Bukkake Ontama with udon (Regular: $4.90, Large: $6.40)
I opted for udon in bukkake sauce served hot and a soft boiled egg. The bukakke sauce made using their special soy sauce and bonito flake stock was essentially a more concentrated dashi broth that was incredibly delicious, despite it being described as a sauce it was still very light. The udon noodles were just how I remembered them, slippery and chewy, the way they should be. A soft boiled egg is always such a treat when done right and Mappen always delivers with a creamy yolk centre and jelly-like egg white. A thin slice of deep-fried tofu (aburaage in Japanese) was a good selection by Yuri to pair with the udon as it was juicy and sweet and a squeeze of lemon added some tartness to balance out the flavours. For a dish consisting of simple ingredients it made for a satisfying and tasty meal, and not to mention very affordable.

Sweet potato and pumpkin tempura and fish cake tempura
My favourite would have to be the sweet potato and pumpkin tempura. It was a delicious golden ball of deep-fried goodness. Despite it not being as crunchy as it would have been if it was freshly prepared it still retained some crunch factor and I really loved the subtle sweetness of the vegetables used. The fish cake tempura was also yummy, it had a nice chewy texture and the batter was light and crisp. 

Karaage and takoyaki skewer
By the time I had a bite of karaage, it no longer had a crunchy skin which was disappointing but the innards were flavoursome and juicy. The takoyaki was still slightly warm and soft. An ample amount of takoyaki sauce drizzled on top and garnishing of bonito flakes together created the classic and traditional flavours of these octopus balls.

Mochi with red bean filling
Mochi red bean filling
The mochi was the perfect way to end the meal on a sweet note. I particularly enjoyed the mochi coated in ground black and white sesame seeds as the hint of saltiness from the sesame complemented the sweet red bean filling so well. The mochi skin itself was delightfully soft, smooth and bouncy in texture.

Happy hour special
Mappen also have a happy hour special between 2pm to 6pm and allows a selection of three items from the range on the board for only $9.90 which is a total bargain.

Washoku Lovers members
Don't forget to show your Washoku Lovers member card at Mappen to get a free apple cider worth $1.90. Membership is completely free and as a member you'll instantly gain access to freebies and discounts from a range of partnered Japanese restaurants in and around Sydney.
To sign up: Washoku Lovers
You will not be disappointed by Mappen as you will get your money's worth and be content with their delicious authentic udon and soba noodles. There are a myriad of ways to have them, whether it be with their tonkotsu or kake broth or their bukakke sauce and there's even a curry variation as well which is one of my favourites.

Thank you to Yuri from SDMG Marketing for the invitation to dine at Mappen

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

You Might Also Like