Mappen Menya Ramen
Shop 86, Sunnybank Plaza, Sunnybank
I heard rumours of a new ramen place in Sunnybank. First from Mork, then from Mochi. I thought they were talking about Hakataya but nope, I was behind on the goss as usual and there was actually another one that opened more recently.
After convincing mum and dad to try this place with me, we drove to Sunnybank plaza around lunchtime on a Sunday.
The queue was the first thing I noticed. There were people lined up out the door. That was lucky for them because after looking at the menu, I would have turned away if not for the hoard of people convincing me this place must be good.
The reason I say that is because the menu wasn't too exciting. There wasn't a lot of variety - you basically choose from 5 or 6 styles and within each style, can choose either udon or soba noodle in small or large. It gave the whole place a fast food vibe.
I have no problems with fast food... if it's fast. The worst thing about Mappen Menya was the queue. I wasn't discouraged when I first saw it (as I said, it was one reason I decided to eat there) but the queue moved sooooo slowwwwwllyyyy...
Once I got to the counter, I found out why. They have an almost cafeteria system where you grab a tray, order, wait for your order, add any sides/drinks on to the tray and pay at the end. The reason for the snail pace was that everyone (especially those like us who'd never been before) spent ages farting around looking at things and picking things. The fact that we had to wait for our menu orders in the queue didn't help to speed things up either.
The restaurant itself has a very quaint feel. It makes me think of a back alley eatery in Asia... but indoors. I really liked it! The shop is small and narrow and we were worried about not getting a table but we didn't have a problem there at all. The worst part was balancing the trays of food while we were walking to the table and trying not to get bumped.
We were all keen to start digging into the food.
Mum had ordered the beef udon. It tasted like sukiyaki beef in that it had a distinct sweet soy flavor. The beef itself was just random, broken pieces. Nothing special. What really stood out was the udon. It was silky and slippery and chewy at the same time.
Dad ordered the mixed tempura set, which came with a mini bowl of udon. The tempura was actually really yummy. I mean, sure, tempura is basically 'fried stuff' and fried stuff is always good (but so, so bad) but this was just perfectly crispy and light. We really liked the tempura veggies... there weren't any big chunky pieces and it was more like shredded onion and potato tempura. It reminded me of Indian pakora but airier. Mum and dad thought a big bowl of this stuff would be perfect with beer, provided your arteries don't start rallying a protest. I just want to add that mum drank the tempura dipping sauce and asked 'why is this soup so salty?'
I had chosen the ontama bukkake with fish roe and soba noodles. It looked real simple: noodles, soft boiled egg, fish roe. I mixed it all together and va-voom. It tasted weird! But, in a good way! I really liked this.
I wish I got it with udon instead but the flavors of egg yolk, fish roe and... whatever else they put in just worked real well together. Mum didn't like it and even dad thought it was too weird but this was a win for me.
Dad also bought a (for want of a better word) flap of marinated tofu. It was super sweet. I didn't like this much. He must've been hungry to find this appealing enough to grab it.
I should also mention that the meals were insanely cheap. It was almost a deterrant for dad who is of the old-fashioned 'if it's really cheap it can't be that good' mentality. I disliked the ordering system but aside from that, I liked Mappen Menya. I was at first discouraged by the lack of variety in the menu but they offer some dishes that you don't find in other Japanese restaurants.