It’s the eternal question for any Asian. Rice or noodles?
Well, now you have to make that decision even before you reach for a menu because Menya Oiden (which specialises in rice bowls and kushiage) recently opened up next to the ever so popular Menya Mappen (which specialises in noodles and tempura).
I’m a massive fan of both.
Here’s why –

Menya Mappen - how to enjoy diagram

The concept behind both these eateries is a Japanese style self-serve canteen. The above photo features a banner which illustrates the six steps:

  1. Get yourself a drink from the fridge.
  2. Grab a tray and choose from the noodles and rice menu (if you’re really hungry, go for the large size).
  3. Help yourself to some toppings (chef’s suggestion – tempura is delicious on top of udon)
  4. Take your meal to the cashier.
  5. Find a seat and enjoy! There’s self serve water if you want.
  6. When you’re done, return your tray.

It’s quick and hassle-free and is the perfect lunch or dinner for when you crave serious comfort food.

Menya Mappen - menu

The menu at Menya Mappen features many styles of udon and soba and the odd rice bowls. But the highlight of any visit is the tempura bar.
The vegetable kakiage tempura ($2.80 each) is a giant fist-sized ball of mixed vegetable strips, deep-fried. There’s also prawn tempura ($2.50), chicken breast tempura ($1.80), pork sausage tempura ($2), sweet potato tempura ($0.80), fish cake tempura ($1.90) and more!
Right beside the cash register at the end of the canteen is a miso soup dispenser and containers of thinly chopped spring onion and tenkasu (bits of tempura batter) which you can add by the spoonful.

Menya Mappen - tempura and noodles canteen

My favourite thing to order is the ontama bukkake udon. Available in regular ($4.90) or large ($5.90), and hot or cold, it’s a light and refreshing way to eat udon. It is served with a wedge of lemon, a creamy half-boiled egg and a splash of tsukedashi soup.

Menya Mappen - ontama bukkake udon

Menya Mappen - soft boiled egg

Meanwhile, right on the other side of Menya Mappen is Menya Oiden, the latest creation from I’s Holdings, which also manages Rengaya, Suminoya, Koh-ya, the Menya noodle bars and Menya Mappen.
Rice dishes available at Menya Oiden includes the Oroshi beef bowl ($5.90 regular / $7.90 large) which is sukiyaki beef and ponzu infused grated radish on rice, ontama yakitori bowl ($6.90 regular / $8.90 large) that is grilled chicken and ontama on rice and Japanese curry with rice ($3.90 regular / $5.90).

Menya Oiden - menu

Similarly to Menya Mappen, side dishes and condiments at Menya Oiden are aplenty. There’s chicken stew with vegetables ($2.50), marinated deep fried eggplant ($2.50), potato salad ($1.50), spinach with sesame sauce ($1.20) and loads more.

Menya Oiden - side dishes and condiments

But again, like at Menya Mappen, it’s the self-service bar that gets me really excited. At Menya Oiden, it is self-serve kushiage. These are bite-sized skewers of eggplant ($1.50), pork (tonkatsu, $2.50), beef mince-fry ($2.20), chicken breast ($1.90), smelt whiting ($1.90) and prawns ($2.50). All panko-crumbed and deep-fried.

Menya Oiden - kushiage

Menya Oiden - kushiage canteen

Menya Oiden - canteen style dining

This is the large ontama curry rice ($6.90) with takoyaki (octopus balls), crumbed chicken breast and beef mince-fry and miso soup ($1.50). I’m sure you could tell that by the meaty nature of the kushiage selection, it belonged to Zen!

Menya Oiden - curry and kushiyaki

I have the Oiden set (regular, $3.60) which includes rice, miso soup, pickles and coleslaw. I top it off with a combination of deeply satisfying kushiage – eggplant, prawns and pork, and a serve of the chicken and vegetable stew.

Menya Oiden set with kushiage

Menya Oiden - eating

Menya Oiden canteen

Dining at either Menya Mappen or Menya Oiden works out to be very reasonable. It’s a cheap eat if you don’t go too wild on the tempura or kushiage. I adore the options and variety, but I hate having to choose. I wonder how long until they knock out the wall in between and allow noodle lovers to mix with rice lovers?
P.S. Join in the ultimate showdown: rice vs noodles! What’s your pick?
Menya Mappen
Shop 11, 537 – 551 George Street, Sydney NSW
Phone: (02) 9283 5525

Menya Mappen on Urbanspoon
Menya Oiden
Shop 12, 537-551 George St, Sydney NSW
Menya Oiden on Urbanspoon

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Jennifer is the founding blogger of I Ate My Way Through (originally, Growing up in the multicultural melting pot of Sydney’s Inner West as a second generation Australian (of Vietnamese refugee parents of Teochew Chinese ancestry), Jen has always had a deep curiosity about global cuisines, culinary heritage and the cultural assimilation of immigrants. For Jen and her family, food is always at the centre of all celebrations, life events and milestones. A lover of the finer things in life, as well as cheap eats, her blogging ethos is all about empowering and inspiring people to expand their culinary repertoire. When not running her two companies (she is also the Managing Director of The Bamboo Garden online marketing agency), Jen can be found exploring old-world charms at vintage markets and delving into local eats around the world. She has a weakness for fried chicken.