In 2011 I developed a bit of, well, an addiction to Menya Mappen. I literally couldn't get enough of their steaming-hot bowls of fat, slurpy, chewy udon noodle soups. I'd find myself at Mappen at least two times a week (sometimes three, or even four times a week if I could wrangle it).
About half way into my year of addiction something interesting happened in the shop next door to Menya Mappen. A sister restaurant opened developed solely to rice bowls. I was intrigued but just could not make myself bypass my beloved Mappen noodles for...rice! Rice!
Menya Oiden always had queues out the door, but it just didn't interest me. And then one day The BFF said we're going to Oiden...and that was that. Bossy.
The set-up is the same canteen style that you'll find at Mappen...join the queue, shuffle along, grab a tray, point at want you want from the menu, pick your deep-fried goodies of choice, grab any little extras you may like, top the lot with shallots and tempura bits, pay, grab your table...and wolf it all down. Simple.
On my foray in to the world of the rice bowl I decided on the Ontama Tuna Tataki (Medium $7.50) - it's one of a handful of seafood options on the menu. Upon reflection I'm pretty sure the egg wouldn't be free range in a cheap-as-chips place like this. At Mappen I don't miss the egg in my bowl of noodle soup, but as this particular rice bowl is fairly dry I think it needs the egg to help moisten up the rice a bit.
The BFFs plate of Ontama Curry looks...well, how do I say this - a bit, umm...sloppy (but moist unlike my bowl of Tuna Tatakai, so that's a win). I bet this is the kind of meal that Uni studetns in Japan whip up for themeselvses every night - no two minute Maggi noddles for those guys. I'm told the plate of Beef Curry with an half boiled egg and rice (Medium $4.90) is filling and warming.
Whilst Mappen has an array of Tempura options to add to your noodles at Oiden it's all about Kushiage - breaded, deep-fried "things on sticks". Miss Piggy likes Kushiage! I tried both the Potato Croquette Kushiage and the Battered Prawns.
Confirming once again that our eyes are much bigger than our (pretty big) stomachs we can't seem to bypass the little salads on offer. The Potato Salad ($1.20) is a winner, soft, creamy and impossible to stop at just one mouthful. This is real comfort food. The Spinach with Sesame Sauce ($1.20) is a lighter side dish without the creamy hit of the Potato Salad.
I was never going to fall madly in love with Oiden as a bowl of rice topped with stuff doesn't hold the appeal of a lovely big bowl of Udon Noodles piled high with pieces of tempura this and that. I ventured to the dark side and I'm all the better for it. I now know 110% that I'm a Mappen girl through and through. It's a pity they don't punch a hole in the wall bewteen Mappen and Oiden so we can expereince the best of both worlds...Noodle Soup with kushiage and potato salad. Yes please!
What about you - rice or noodles?
Menya Oiden is at 537-551 George Street, Sydney. Phone/fax them on 9267 1368.