I'm not sure why this place is increasingly addictive, but eating at Menya Mappen is always an experience. Located inside George Street's Skyview Plaza, Mappen presents itself as a cafeteria-style traditional Japanese noodle bar. As you walk in, the smell of their famous Tsukedashi broth and the last-century Japanese folk tunes linger in the air invite you to a different world.
First time patrons may be confused at first, but an easy to follow menu posted along the waiting line shows their specialities. On offer: udon (flour noodles), soba (buckwheat noodles), rice, and for those with meatier taste-buds, servings with sukiyaki wagyu beef or Japanese curry are available. Once decided and ordered, the best part (of course, apart from eating it) begins.
Stacks of udon and soba face a bubbling pot of water as you begin salivating and notice that all noodles are made to order. The men in red shake off the excess water in a violent yet graceful fashion and transfer to a bowl with your desired broth. As you shift across, a landscape of self-serve tempura await hungry stomachs. The display of sweet-potato slices, chunky pieces of vegetable kakiage (a mixture of sliced onions and carrots), lengths of prawn, fish and chicken all covered in a bubbly golden batter open a gate of deep-fried decadence. But that's only step 2 in this voyage – a last minute array of condiments and toppings for a small price can also be purchased. To finish off, a spoonful of fresh chopped shallots and tempura flakes (both on the house) give your dish the extra "oomph" to its flavour and authenticity.
In terms of value, the meal itself costs to how much you've put on your tray. A good eat can be bought for only around $10 at this place but if you're like me, and you'll know when you come here, you can never control yourself.
A word of warning beforehand, to keep in theme of their casual dining setting, seats cannot be reserved but rather can only be taken once you have received and paid for your tray. Fear not, however, as their system will always guarantee a spot. Seats are also communal, and as any other Japanese restaurant – slurping is encouraged.