Friday, December 30, 2011

Menya Oiden, CBD

If you're ever in the city and hungering for a cheap but filling meal, Menya Mappen was always my go-to place. Bowls of noodles and tempura always went down well, but a little more recently a sister joint Menya Oiden popped up in the adjoining shop space at Skyview Plaza. Following the same ideology of cafeteria-style dining, the new incarnation as a rice bowl bar, serving rice with various toppings and a varying selection of kushiage, gives us a few more tasty options.

Ontama Suriyaki Beef Bowl, Menya Oiden
Ontama Beef Bowl $5.90 (medium)

I'm a sucker for the creamy half-boiled egg first introduced to me in a bowl of udon bukkake at Mappen, and the ontama beef bowl does not disappoint. Rice stopped with tender stripes of Sukiyaki beef and onions, spring onions, ginger and that lovely googie egg.

Ebi Fry Bowl, Menya Oiden
Ebi-Fry Bowl $6.90 (medium)

The ebi-fry bowl consists of rice topped with Asian slaw (shredded raw cabbage and carrot) and two skewers of crunchy crumbed, deep-fried prawns drizzled with a sweet soy sauce.

Kimchi Beef Bowl, Menya Oiden
Kimchi Beef Bowl $5.90 (medium)

The kimchi beef bowl presents rice with the same tasty Sukiyaki beef and onions, topped with kimchi. It wasn't the best kimchi I've ever had but there were some nice hot and sour flavours.

Ontama Tataki Tuna Bowl, Menya Oiden
Ontama Tataki Tuna Bowl $7.50 (medium)

The ontama takani tuna bowl was unlike anything I've had before - rice topped with small pieces of nori, a patty of minced raw tuna belly, a half-boiled egg and spring onions. When mixed together, the thick liquid egg yolk coats everything and the raw tuna mince adds a a creamy texture and an almost buttery flavour to the rice. I added a liberal sprinkle of optional tempura flakes and extra spring onion (can you tell I love shallots?) and all together, it made a lovely, filling meal.

Tonkatsu and Potato Fry, Menya Oiden
Tonkatsu $2.50, Potato Kushiage $0.80

Pieces of skewered tonkatsu pork and potato kushiage are sometimes part of the deep-fried selection, which changes day-to-day. The panko crumb coating is cooked to a lovely golden-brown colour and crisp but not greasy. The sweet and sour 'fry' sauce in the tabletop condiments box goes particularly well with the tonkatsu.

Eggplant Kakiage, Menya Oiden
Eggplant Fry $1.50

My favourite of the fried items is definitely the deep-fried eggplant, a wedge (sometimes a strip) of eggplant, crumbled and deep-fried until the exterior is crisp while the flesh inside is soft and creamy. Best.

Marinated Deep-fried Eggplant, Menya Oiden
Marinated Deep-fried Eggplant $2.50

The marinated deep-fried eggplant may look dubious, sitting on the counter in a small cling-wrapped bowl, but it tastes pretty decent. The small pieces of eggplant are soft and flavoursome, and topped with spring onion and some stuff I'm unfamiliar with.

Spinach Salad, Menya Oiden
Spinach with Sesame Sauce $1.20

The spinach with sesame sauce isn't anything special but it's there by default, the tiny bowl of clean greenery takes the edge of the guilt of having consumed a large amount of more delicious deep-fried things. It knows its purpose, but most days I bypass and cop the guilt to grab some more kushiage.

Menya Oiden
Skyview Plaza, 537-551 George Street, Sydney 2000
Telephone: (02) 9283 5525

Menya Oiden on Urbanspoon

Friday, December 23, 2011

Cafe Ish, Surry Hills

Being your average uni student, my meagre income is funnelled into three main expenditure categories: food, clothing and alcohol. This axis of evil is a persistant problem for me, trying to maintain a lifestyle I can barely afford but cannot find the will to give up. Through the perpetual struggle with these first world problems, I have developed an appreciation for cheap food and sales (but never cheap alcohol), hence the reason why Tight Arse Tuesdays at Cafe Ish were a great ally to my poor abused wallet. At Ish the food is Japanese-cross-native Australian, the love-child of the labours of owner/chef Josh Nicholls and his Japanese wife/business partner Ai; and at $10 a pop for select menu items on Tuesdays, gave me my own happy food baby.

Karaage Soft Shell Crab Omelette, Cafe Ish
Crab Omelette Set $16.50

This is the dish that Ish is most well-known for, and the crab omelette does indeed look impressive. I don't eat crab but I wish I did, because the omelette is huge, filled with crisp karaage soft-shell crab, chunks of avocado, shallots and topped with a garlic, chilli, ginger and soy dressing. The lunch set size comes with a bowl of rice and miso soup - a very decent meal, methinks.

Ai's Freaking Awesome Fried Chicken, Cafe Ish
Ai's Freaking Awesome Fried Chicken $14.50

Ai's freaking awesome fried chicken speaks for itself, chunks of crunchy karaage chicken covered in a vinegar and pickled garlic sauce, topped with fresh and crunchy fried shallots. It's served on a bed of rice, with a bowl of miso soup on the side.

Wagyu Burger, Cafe Ish
Wagyu Burger $16.50

I realise this is not a very good photo of the wagyu burger, but underneath the toasted housemade bun lies a wagyu beef patty, grilled onions, cheese and tomato relish. It comes with a very generous bowl of shoestring fries served with aioli and tomato sauce.

Wag-yu Shortrib, Cafe Ish
Wagyu Short Rib $16.50

The wagyu short rib was cooked tender, succulent, fall-off-the-bone and drenched in a rich, sweet 'smokey soy caramel', topped with fresh chilli, coriander, shallots and sesame. It's kinda phenomenal. Served as set with miso soup and rice.

Croc in a Roc, Cafe Ish
Croc in a Roc $10.50

A thick slice of house-made bread, buttery and toasted, stuffed with crocodile sausage, fetta, egg and shallot, served with tomato relish. For most people, any type of exotic meat will be described as "it tastes like chicken" but no, the croc sausage did not taste like chicken. The croc in a roc was spicy and meaty, covered in egg and punctuated with bits of salty fetta.

Wattle Maccacino, Cafe Ish
Wattle Maccacino $4.10

The wattle maccacino is the signature coffee, a cappuccino flavoured with wattleseed extract and macadamia. Sweet, nutty and smooth, it's one of my favourite cuppas despite the fact that I generally dislike flavoured coffees. Also I'm pretty sure I'm allergic to macadamias but I brave the possibility of hospitalisation for this indulgence (I also bring my EpiPen).

Cafe Ish
82 Campbell Street, Surry Hills 2010
Telephone: (02) 9281 1688

Café Ish on Urbanspoon