Tag Archives: Japanese

Menya Mappen, Sydney

Back in 2010 when Menya Mappen first opened, the idea of a self-service udon and tempura bar was unheard of. But fast forward five years, and now there’s several Japanese self-service style noodle/rice bowl restaurants scattered around Sydney, but the original Mappen is still going strong with queues going out the door when we visit on a weeknight.

It’s literally been years since I last ate at Mappen, and while it’s still the same concept, there’s some nice additional options available. There’s a monthly special (this month is a beef yaki-udon style dish), and there’s also some new drinks including a non-alcoholic apple cider and a creamy green tea slushie.

Apple cider (non-alcoholic) – $1.90; Green tea slushie – $3.30

Move along the cafeteria line and you’ll be asked for your order. There’s lots of options, including a choice of noodles or rice, udon or soba, hot or cold, soup or sauce. Thankfully there’s a decent picture menu to help you decide what you like the look of.

Tempura bar

Keep moving along and you’ll get to the tempura bar. This is where it’s easy to go a bit crazy with all the deep fried foods, but I usually try to restrict myself to two extras otherwise I end up too full to finish it all.

Cold bar

I used to walk right past the cold section but that was before I realised what goodies lay inside the mini fridge! There’s chilled items to add to your noodles like wakame seaweed, kimchi, corn and bamboo shoots, as well as seaweed salad and daifuku desserts.

Ontama bukkake udon (regular) – $4.90
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Cho Cho San, Potts Point

Well hello again, it’s been a while! If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that I’ve just returned from a whirlwind trip to Hokkaido in Japan where we got stuck in the airport both there and back, and when we finally landed on home soil, I was off again on another interstate work trip!

So it’s kind of nice to be home, and to have time to sit down and blog and just chill. But one thing I started to miss as soon as we got back to Australia was the incredible food in Japan – hell, even the fast food there is way better (Mos Burger anyone?)

So yes, this post is about Japanese food, coz you all know I can never get sick of the stuff. I’d had Cho Cho San on my radar for a while, so I was pretty happy when Charm chose this restaurant to have her farewell dinner.

Tempura eggplant miso – $13

The menu has a selection of dishes designed for sharing, which suited us perfectly as we were able to try little bits of everything. We started with the tempura eggplant miso, a deep fried take on the classic nasu dengaku. The tempura batter was wonderfully light, encasing soft pieces of eggplant and drizzled with a sweet miso sauce, sesame seeds and shallots.

Beef tataki, wild rice, ginger dressing – $14

The beef tataki was like no other I’d had, with super thin slices of fatty raw beef that melted in the mouth, with nutty-tasting wild rice for texture and a light ginger dressing.

Hokkaido scallops, yuzu, katsuoboshi – $18

One of the best things about visiting Hokkaido is the amazing seafood, particularly the crab and scallops. Hokkaido scallops are plump and sweet, and especially sweet when eaten raw. The hokkaido scallop dish at Cho Cho San played up the sweetness of the scallops by contrasting it against the umami flavours of the katsuoboshi (dried bonito) and the tangy flavour of yuzu. There was also chopped radish and wakame seawood for colour.

Tuna, avocado, pickled eggplant – $22
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Ramen O-San, Haymarket

The year feels like it’s only just begun and already there are new ramen shops popping up all over Sydney. The latest one to open is Ramen O-San, which hails from Kyushu, Japan’s most southwesterly island that encompasses the prefectures of Fukuoka, Okinawa and Nagasaki, amongst others.

Ramen O-San’s Sydney store

Ramen O-San’s Sydney shop is the 7th shop to open, with 5 stores already open in Japan and one store in Cambodia. The soup base here is a shoyu tonkotsu base, made by boiling pork bones down for 10 hours and adding in soy sauce at the end. Most of the ramen on the menu is a tonkotsu-based, however there are some which combine the pork bone broth with a chicken or fish stock.

Ramen O-San’s menu

I opt for the black garlic ramen, which is basically the original tonkotsu ramen with a bit of black garlic thrown in. There’s a streak of black garlic oil on one side of the bowl which is fragrant with garlic flavour and adds another dimension to the tonkotsu soup base.

Black garlic tonkotsu ramen – $10.80
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Yasaka Ramen, Sydney

No Ramen, No Life. It’s pretty much a mantra I live by, as I find myself getting insatiable cravings for ramen every couple of weeks. I was pretty excited to hear about yet another ramen place opening up in the CBD – and run by an ex-Gumshara chef as well! We found ourselves heading over to Yasaka Ramen a few weeks after it had opened to check out what the fuss was about, and to see if chef Takeshi Sekigawa had brought the infamously rich Gumshara tonkotsu broth with him.

Making takoyaki

The first thing you see when you walk into the restaurant are several takoyaki cast iron moulds where a chef is busily turning the octopus balls to make sure they get just the right amount of crispiness. It’s just as well that they have several of these moulds along one wall of the restaurant as there’s lots of different takoyaki to choose from including wasabi soy, teriyaki sauce with egg salad, and grilled cheese!

Takoyaki (8pcs) – $10

We have to order some takoyaki after seeing them being freshly made out the front. The takoyaki are nicely cooked and creamy on the inside, with a touch of ginger and lashings of takoyaki sauce, kewpie mayonnaise and bonito flakes.

Menu

But the focus here is, of course, on the ramen. A full page of the menu is dedicated to three variants of thick tonkotsu pork bone broth – tonkotsu shoyu, tonkotsu shio, and tonkotsu miso – with a variety of toppings. The ramen noodles are also made in house and sometimes you can see them being cut into thin strands out the front of the restaurant.

Egg ramen (tonkotsu shoyu base) – $14.80
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Ume Restaurant, Surry Hills

There are so many good Japanese restaurants on the north side of the Bridge and around the CBD, that I rarely feel the need to venture further for Japanese food. So it takes a special restaurant to warrant a trip beyond my usual sphere of comfort and convenience, but it certainly pays off when you’re visiting a restaurant like Ume.

Ume is tucked away in a leafy section of Bourke St, Surry Hills, which makes it a quiet and peaceful location for dinner. The restaurant is simply decorated, with a plum blossom painting on one wall that references the restaurant’s name, “ume”, meaning “plum” in Japanese. Head Chef Kerby Craig, who trained under Tetsuya Wakuda before opening Koi in Woolwich and then Ume in Surry Hills, has created a menu that focuses on Japanese food with traditional and modern elements using local and sustainable ingredients. Every day except for Saturday, diners can choose from a 5-course ($67) or 7-course ($87) degustation menu, or opt to go a la carte. Saturday is limited to degustation only.

Raw deep sea prawns, prawn oil, walnuts, okahijiki, 1 year old preserved lemon, saishikomi soy – $21

We decide to go a la carte mainly because of the ama ebi dish which is not on the degustation menu. I fell in love with ama ebi (deep sea prawns) when I was in Japan and I rarely see it on menus here in Sydney, so I had to order it. The sweetness of the raw prawns pair well with the crunchy walnuts, seaweed and the subtle tartness of the preserved lemon. After tasting this dish, I knew that the rest of the meal was going to be a treat.

Seared Hokkaido scallop, Shibanuma shoyu brown butter, native finger lime, dulse – $21

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