Aidan 'Taco' Jones is a comedian and writer based in Melbourne Australia, he likes most types of cheese and often throws tantrums. To read his blog and find him doing comedy hit up ajtaco.blogspot.com
I am not a rich man and Mappen Ramen is not a place where rich men go. That's not to say that we're not both killing it.
My first visit to Mappen Ramen on Bourke St was actually the first time I'd bought a meal since arriving back in Melbourne after living in London for two years. I've missed great Asian food so much, and the prices displayed on the menus outside drew me in. I was with my friend Blake and had offered to buy him dinner in my excitement after receiving a good job offer. Technically, this was a celebration.
I got the Pork Lover Mayo Bowl (Large), and Blake got the very affordable Tori-Kara Mayo Bowl because even though I'd offered to pay, he's poor too so he's not an asshole. Together the bill for our feast came to $13.90, and we decided to skip on the drinks in favour of a shiny water tap at the far end of the room that sat poking out of a bench next to a tray filled with condiments. The service is simple: you go up, order, grab a tray, then pay down the other end of the counter where you get your food, before grabbing your chopsticks (or plastic fork, if you're from Europe HAHA TAKE THAT!) and whichever table you fancy.
The water is self-service, and all the cups are plastic. I cannot stress this enough, they are plastic. Like, real plastic. Party-cup plastic. Disposable cups. That is Mappen Ramen in a nutshell. I'm sure it wouldn't be hard to buy regular cups for the water and have one of the staff washing them, but this isn't a restaurant, and it almost feels like a tacit admission, like they know that if they HAD bought proper cups, they'd just be sitting there dirty. It's like when you give all the money you've saved to your bank (or your parents, depending on where you're at in your journey), and tell them to only give it to you after a certain time, because you know you'd just spend it all otherwise. It's self awareness, and I have nothing but respect for it: "I know who I am, and I'm not changing. Question is, are you petty enough to care?"
The food was fantastic on that first visit, and I've been back several times in the last few weeks and tried something different every time, never being disappointed. The Dragon, which I ate with watery eyes on my most recent visit, was hot enough to warrant a few of the tissues these guys have on hand, but not so hot that I ever had to stop eating. The Mayo Bowls have a generous serving of that incredible egg mayonnaise that a lot of Japanese food is cut with. The staff are friendly, and they always give me a little tub of soy sauce from the kitchen when I ask. The music is top 40 chart hits, and when it's not it's mid 00's college rock, or it cuts out inexplicably before returning ten minutes later. I love it.
It's a ramen place guys. It's Mappen Ramen, and it's the best value you're likely to find in the CBD, and on top of that they've not batted an eyelid for the entire hour I've been in here on my laptop writing this review. THAT'S Hospitality.