It’s now options galore around the cinema area on George Street, and as tempting as the KFC smells, we head the other direction to the few blocks that almost seem transported straight out of Asia.
|Mappen, George Street, Sydney|
The concept is self-serve udon, soba and tempura as well as a couple of rice options. The cafeteria style, shifting along with a tray, is pure novelty to me, but when faced with a full queue, it’s not a particularly speedy way of getting to the register to pay. The line is also held up when tempura sauce or miso soup spillages happen.
|Cooking noodles to order|
While the base prices for noodles and such are very reasonable, I can see how one can get quickly carried away at the tempura station: one of these, a couple of those and one more of that, and you could be looking at a $15+ bowl of noodles – which still isn’t too bad.
There’s also a cold cabinet of vegetable sides such as seaweed, grated radish, pickled vegetables and even natto, the fermented soybeans of acquired taste. Following that, there are soft boiled eggs on offer, miso soup dispensed from the push of a button and tempura sauce at self service too.
At the end of the line are condiments of tempura flakes and sliced shallots (one spoonful per person) and the register where someone tallies up the items on your tray. In a matter of minutes, I have helped myself to an appetising, fresh noodle meal for less than $10.
|Order and get your noodles before taking a seat|
The soup/sauce is indeed rich with an impressive depth of flavour capped off with sweetly tart notes, an ideal partner to the thick, slippery, somewhat al dente udon noodles. I don’t know what magical powers tempura flakes possess (oil or crunch perhaps), but they make the noodles and soup sensational as does the lemon wedge served with the bukkake.
|Ontama bukkake udon|
|Tempura selection: prawn, sweet potato and vegetable kakiage|
The prawn is also exceptionally fresh, hot and crisp on the outside and inside, as nice, fresh prawns should be. The sweet potato is a touch on the soggy and seeping oil side, but perfectly cooked for sweetly creamy, starchy insides.
|Chikuwa - fish cake|
|Sansai vegetable side|
We were in, got noodles, ate and had returned trays within 30 minutes. Being such a rare quick and easy meal that could be had everyday, I’m much looking forward to when my path again veers towards Mappen.