Three years ago when the photos on this blog were still very obviously taken by an amateur on an iPhone (now they’re taken by an amateur with a fancy camera), I reviewed Menya Mappen in the city – a Japanese cafeteria-esque noodle bar. I’ve been back to Menya multiple times since I wrote that entry, and still enjoy every visit – so imagine my excitement when I was invited to try Mappen in Bondi Junction.
Mappen Bondi been created along the same lines as Menya Mappen and its other sister restaurants – Oiden and Tenkomori (?). Simple, cafeteria style self-service set up, authentic simple Japanese food, for a reasonable price. It’s the first of the chain to break out of the city, and Bondi seems to be the right choice as its first non-city location. The restaurant was booming while we were there, and at times, there was even a wait for tables.
K and I met up with Yuri from SD Marketing Global, who was there to show us around and guide us through Mappen’s menu. The Bondi site is much larger than the other sites in the city, and its size is also reflected in the menu. Unlike Menya which focuses on udon, Oiden which focuses on donburi, and Tenkomori which focuses on ramen, Mappen Bondi has taken advantage of the larger kitchen and restaurant capacity and combined all three menus into one. This means that you have the choice of udon, donburi or ramen – particularly beneficial for larger groups with picky eaters.
Guided by Yuri’s recommendations, K chose a donburi set, and I chose a ramen. The servers behind the counter quickly began to make up our dishes. The ramen was quick and easy as most of the ingredients are preprepared and it was just a matter of putting the whole dish together. There are little efficiencies in the kitchen as well – the white machine shown in the photo for example, dispenses the perfect amount of rice into a bowl when you press a button. Don’t you just love Japanese gadgetry?
K’s donburi set did take a little bit longer as he chose the wagyu. The strips of wagyu were first spiced and lightly cooked on a piece of foil, before being finished off directly on the grill. This takes about five minutes.
Taking our completed main meals, we slid our trays along the cafeteria line to the tempura! The Panko batter looked incredibly crispy and crunchy, and most of the items seemed quite fresh. Staff were replenishing the fried foods display while we were looking, so the turnover is quite quick I think. We also made a quick stop at the little mini fridge for some salad and some dessert to round off our meal.
The staff tote up your total and upon paying the bill, you move onto the condiments cart, where you can finish off your meal with things like a little tub of hot tempura dipping sauce for your tempura, or shallots for your noodles.
My choice of the Pork Kimchi Tonkotsu Ramen ($8.90 for a regular, $10.50 for a large) was simply inspired (thanks Yuri!). Normally I probably wouldn’t choose this, dismissing it as it seems somewhat more Korean than Japanese. The spicy kimchi went incredibly well with the thick rich tonkotsu stock though, giving it a little bit of a kick. The ramen was lovely and chewy as well, rather than the soft limp ramen you might find elsewhere.
Also pictured: Prawn Tempura, Fish Cake Tempura, Takoyaki and Daifuku. The tempura was lovely and still crispy and crunchy. The prawn was probably nicer than the fish cake though, which is very much an acquired taste. The takoyaki was a little more disappointing as it was quite soft. I think takoyaki is definitely the type of thing that is best eaten when still fresh off the pan, as it loses something when it’s been sitting under heat lamps for any more than five minutes.
A close up! The Ontama (half boiled egg) on top was extra. Doesn’t it look beautiful?
K’s BBQ Wagyu Beef Donburi Set ($12.90 for a regular, $15.90 for a Deluxe) was topped with the tender marinated grilled wagyu beef, as well as thinly sliced cabbage. It’s an incredibly filling meal, especially as he got the “Additional A Set” which can be ordered with any donburi – a mini udon and a mini salad for an additional $2.90. I was a big fan of the udon – it’s only a small serving, but the broth is clear and deliciously salty, and the added fresh shallots really top it off.
Close-up – doesn’t the wagyu look delicious? I have to admit, I stole a few slices off his bowl!
If you’re not in the mood for a full meal, you could always just stop in for a drink and a snack! Mappen has a special deal whereby if you buy one of the beers on the menu (Sapporo and Orion), you can add a little snack on the side for only a few dollars. Add three gyoza for only $3, or a serve of either hot chips or edamame beans for only $1.50. The only thing wrong with this deal is that the gyoza are so more-ish that you’ll find yourself wanting to order another serve!
We finished off our meal with a Sakura Daifuku and a Sesame Daifuku. Yuri recommended the Sakura Daifuku as quite a traditional dessert, but I have to admit that I was a little hesitant at first. I’m a big fan of black sesame and red bean so I really loved the Sesame Daifuku (chewy, but not too chewy, sweet, but not too sweet), but the concept of actually eating the cherry blossoms that are mixed into Sakura Daifuku was challenging! I think I’ll stick with my preferred Sesame Daifuku next time.
Thank you Yuri for inviting K and I to try Mappen Bondi. We’re such fans of Menya, Oiden and Tenkomori that this latest addition to the chain will no doubt become a new favourite every time we visit Bondi!
Gourmanda was invited to this event as a guest of SD Marketing Global. All photos and words are her own.