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Monday, September 19, 2011

Menya Oiden, Sydney

If you don't know what kushiage is, then take a seat, loosen your belt and let me explain. It's all about bite-sized nibbles of meat, vegetables and seafood, jammed on a skewer, dipped in batter and panko breadcrumbs and then deep-fried until all your dreams come true.

Kushiage is one of the major drawcards at Menya Oiden, a new opening in Skyview Plaza next door to its sister outlet Menya Mappen.

Lunchtime crowds

The menu here is a direct complement to Menya Mappen. Where Menya Mappen primarily offers noodles and tempura, Menya Oiden is all about rice dishes, with a self-serve kushiage counter providing a bread-crumb coated crunch.

The process of ordering is just the same: patrons join the queue -- cafeteria-style -- and place their order with the first server who ladles out your dish on the spot. There's a selection of curries on rice (including a bewildering sounding cheese curry rice) but the most popular dishes are probably sukiyaki beef, thin sliced of beef and onion simmered in soup, and tuna tataki, a disc of minced tuna belly served on rice. Other options include kimchi beef, grilled chicken yakitori and deep-fried prawns.

Presenting the ontama tuna tataki bowl

Takenoko-ni cooked bamboo shoots $2.50

Half the fun is in the side dishes, from the ontama egg option -- a soft boiled egg cooked slowly so the yolk is thick and gooey -- to a huge selection of nibbles that you slowly pass as you shuffle forward in the queue.

Self-serve kushiage - fried food on sticks:
Chicken karaage
$2 and Ebi-Fry prawn skewers $2.80

The self-serve kushiage station has several distractions, but admittedly I'd expected a greater range of things to choose from. Current offerings include deep-fried prawn, pork, chicken, pork sausage, eggplant and asparagus spears.

Asparagus fry $1.90 and pork sausage fry $2.20

Pork tonkatsu $2.50

Deep-fried eggplant $1.50

Potato salad $1.90; kuromane and chocolate daifuku sticky rice cake desserts $1.50;
natto fermented soy beans $1.50 and chilli menma bamboo shoots $1.30

There are saucers of simmered vegetables, like bamboo shoots and eggplant at the start of the queue. Toward the end of the line is the chiller cabinet, filled with temptations like creamy potato salad, pickled bamboo shoots, kimchee, natto fermented soy beans and boxes of soft and chewy daifuku dessert dumplings.

Tallying selections at the register

The assistant at the register will tally up everything on your tray so you can pay (cash only). A chilled water tap with plastic cups is an authentic Japanese touch, allowing customers to spend their drinks money on more important things - like anything deep-fried.

Menya Oiden posters

Menya Oiden is all about eating quickly, so by the time you've exited the queue with your tray, there's usually a spot to sit at one of the communal tables.

Ontama beef bowl $5.90
Sukiyaki beef and ontama onsen egg with rice

The ontama beef bowl provides a reasonable serving of sukiyaki beef, the thin shavings of simmered beef revived by curls of sweet caramelised onion.

Ontama tuna tataki bowl $7.50
Minced tuna belly and ontama onsen egg on rice

The ontama tuna tataki bowl doesn't quite look like the photo on the menu, which promises a tumble of freshly diced tuna. Instead you'll be presented with a puck of pre-minced tuna belly, removed from its sheath of cling film, and placed gently into your bowl.

Once you get past the disconcerting shade of pale pink and break apart the tuna with your chopsticks, the tuna offers a satisfying meal - its fatty smoothness oddly comforting.

Ontama tuna tataki bowl $7.50 with
chikuzen stew vegetables $2.50; cooked eggplant $2.50;
chicken karaage $2.00; ebi prawn fry $2.80 and pork sausage fry $2.20

The rice bowls are fairly cheap but it's easy to run up a significant bill once you start adding side dishes, and reaching for just one more kushiage skewer.

Ontama tuna tataki bowl $7.50 with
fried eggplant $1.50; and pork tonkatsu $2.50

I chose the fried eggplant and the pork tonkatsu, impressed by the creamy sweetness of the eggplant and the succulency of the pork.

Ontama soft boiled egg

The ontama soft boiled egg was the only disappointment - a little less runny than I prefer, but that just gives me a good excuse to return and check the next batch of ontama eggs.

Diner inside Menya Oiden

Menya Oiden

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Menya Oiden on Urbanspoon

Menya Oiden
537-551 George Street, Sydney
(inside Skyview Plaza behind 85C Cake Shop
- Menya Oiden is next door to Menya Mappen)

Cash only

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Menya Mappen, Sydney
Menya Noodle Bar, Haymarket
15 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 9/19/2011 02:25:00 am


  • At 9/19/2011 7:29 am, Anonymous eatmarvin said…

    I love it! It's Cheap, Delicious and very Filling. The only problem is I have to decide whether to go to Mappen or Oiden. Or both? :)

  • At 9/19/2011 9:07 am, Blogger Mel said…

    If only my feet would stop turning left instead of right I might make it inside this place...it's so hard to go past Mappen tho!

  • At 9/19/2011 9:07 am, Blogger Michelle Chin said…

    man, i wanna come here and eat too!

  • At 9/19/2011 9:22 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Food doesn't look bad at all for the super cheap price.

  • At 9/19/2011 10:28 am, Anonymous Tina@foodboozeshoes said…

    Hmmm, certainly not a healthy Monday lunch option... :) The tuna one looks interesting!

  • At 9/19/2011 10:45 am, Blogger Rita (mademoiselle délicieuse) said…

    As if the temptation of Mappen wasn't enough, there is not Oiden to compete for the deep-fried love of my heart! Side dishes can lead to an over-ordering pitfall but it's so much fun and variety.

  • At 9/19/2011 10:50 am, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    mmm onsen egg

  • At 9/19/2011 11:06 am, Anonymous rockahenry said…

    I recently tried natto after always saying no for years... and I think i'm in love with it...

    the tuna looks a little scary though!

  • At 9/19/2011 11:11 am, Anonymous Hannah said…

    Isn't that how the Cinderella song does? "A dream is a wish your heart makes, when you're full of deep-fried Japanese goodies"?

  • At 9/19/2011 11:20 am, Anonymous Nic@diningwithastud said…

    I've heard good things and def want to go. Cant believe how cheap :) even better!

  • At 9/19/2011 3:10 pm, Anonymous Jacq said…

    Yay another addition to the Menya family! Who wouldn't love deep-fried goodies on a stick?

  • At 9/19/2011 3:49 pm, Anonymous Dumpling Girl said…

    Loved your opening sentence, definitely bought a smile to my face, it sums up how to prepare yourself for kushiage perfectly.

  • At 9/20/2011 12:27 am, Anonymous eden @ nutsaboutmynuts said…

    your photos are so amazing !

    I'm assuming this is one of the Menya franchises ? So amazing how they can constantly draw such a huge queue - i think i've only ever been to the ramen one !

    and hehe omg dessert dumplings i am sold

  • At 9/22/2011 4:07 pm, Anonymous Vivian - vxdollface said…

    My goodness there are so many people! Haha I would totes rack up a huge bill from self-selecting my food like that :O they look so yummy & fried :)

  • At 10/01/2011 12:58 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Went to Menya Oiden twice this week, and noticed that it doesn't fill up until around 1pm. Get there by 12-12.30, and there's heaps of tables. (but groups of 2 are still best!) Or maybe just because it's school holidays!

    Most people seem to go straight to Mappen, and don't notice the new place that's opened to their right. I know I didn't, until reading this review! You don't really know that it's Menya, until you look closely at the sign.

    Love the ontama tuna tataki. Mappen seems to have greater variety of fried goodies! (no tofu here at Oiden)


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