Review: Menya Mappen, Sydney

K and I recently visited Menya Mappen after a joint date with the Australian Red Cross Blood Service where we both donated blood. Talk about a romantic date night! We were in definite need of a large satisfying meal to set us straight on our feet after donating nearly half a litre of blood each, and Menya Mappen down the road from the blood centre really delivered the goods.

Menya Mappen is a self-service udon bar in the heart of Sydney, drawing on what is apparently an growing trend in Japan. Apparently the self-service udon bar industry in Japan grew by 5% in 2011 – there’s clearly a trend here that reflects our society’s preference for faster and cheaper service.

Joining the cafeteria line, we chose two cold drinks, two large bowls of ontama bukkake udon, three tempura prawn, two tempura sweet potato slices, tempura sliced onion, takoyaki, and a picked veggie rice ball – for the cheap price of $35AUD for the both of us!

The ontama bukkake udon was beautifully tasty, especially with the half boiled egg on top (the ontama). The egg was really done well, with the perfect blend of runny white and semi-solid yolk.

The tempura was more hit and miss – while the sweet potato was done quite well with a light covering of tempura batter, the prawns were a different matter. Good tempura has minimal batter, but the tempura prawn was pretty much 50/50 prawn to tempura batter. I had to pick off a lot of batter for the prawn so that it would actually taste any good.

The takoyaki was lukewarm, which really affected its flavour. Takoyaki tastes best when it’s fresh off the pan, not when it’s been sitting on a heated buffet for close to an hour. Lucky I’ve recently purchased a poffertje pan for the cheap price of $9AUD so I might be able to experiment with making takoyaki in a poffertje pan at home.

I would rate Menya Mappen a 7 out of 10. It really is amazing value and with the tastiness of the noodles the restaurant really deserves that rating. The tempura really let it down though and has cost it quite a few points.

Menya Mappen on Urbanspoon

Sydney Bar Week: Drinks Fest

Thanks to the generosity of the event organisers, I attended the Drinks Fest afternoon session at Sydney Bar Week today. Held at the Overseas Passenger Terminal at Circular Quay overlooking Sydney Harbour, it was absolutely the best place to be with the warm weather, the sun reflecting off the water and unbeatable views.

I got to meet a number of representatives from various alcohol companies, and did a bit of taste-testing at each stand. Some of my personal highlights included:

  1. The Vok Chocolat liquor range is amazing. The Rich Cocoa blend was particularly great, and would give a nice kick to a mug of hot chocolate on a cold winter’s night.
  2. A five minute neck and shoulder massage at the Monkey Shoulder stand. With my near-constant back pain, any massage is always warmly welcome!
  3. 1883 syrups – a great lychee flavoured syrup which would work well with both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.
  4. The Boysencider from Old Mout Cider – fresh and fruity, perfect for a warm summer’s day.
  5. Some Rekorderlig cider flavours which are hard to find in a usual liquor store. I ended up going home with a bottle each of: Winter Cider, Mango-Raspberry and Apple-Blackcurrant.
  6. A tasting of Bulleit Bourbon, followed by a shot of pickle juice and a dill pickle. It was surprisingly tasty, though it sounds strange!

Well done to the Bar Week organisers – there was a great range of exhibitors there, and a good schedule of special classes and tastings. I look forward to the Fashionable Drinks event tomorrow!

Review: Sydney Fresh Food Markets Travelicious Tour

This past weekend, I joined Lauren of Travelicious Tours for the Saturday Fresh Food Markets half-day tour. As a small family-run business, the vibe of Travelicious Tours was very different to other food tours I’ve attended, as the tour group was much smaller with seven people and much more personal and intimate as a result.

Note: I joined this tour as a complimentary guest for review purposes.

We started out at 9am on Saturday, meeting at Central Station. Our small group of seven was made up of four older ladies, a younger couple in their late twenties, and myself – promoted by Lauren to the others as a blogger who was there to review the tour. I’ll take that label, and wear it with pride.

Jumping into the Travelicious minivan (chauffered by Lauren’s husband Shaun – I told you it was a family-run business!) we headed towards the Eveleigh Farmers Market, with Lauren giving the group a short history and profile of the markets along the way.

Eveleigh is the type of farmers market where the average stallholder holds numerous awards for the excellence of their produce and products. Built on what used to be former estate in colonial times, the market owners have the strictest standards in order to maintain this level of excellence, ensuring that all their stallholders are small growers who sell produce or items that are organic, local, and sustainable in nature.

Eveleigh markets

As soon as you arrive at Eveleigh Markets, you can absolutely see exactly how prestigious it must be to hold a stall there. I’ve shopped at markets before – however they have always prided themselves on quantity over quality. This is definitely not the case at Eveleigh with under 50 stallholders selling produce that looked so good that your mouth would start watering as soon as you stepped into the market hall. This actually made it quite difficult for Lauren to keep our small group together as people were constantly lured away by the promise of some tasty produce to take home.

The two hours we spent at Eveleigh Markets were designed to give us a personal connection and conversation with some key stallholders and some exclusive taste testing, while also giving us half an hour to shop to our heart’s content for organic produce. Continue reading “Review: Sydney Fresh Food Markets Travelicious Tour”