*Special thanks to Washoku Lovers for inviting me to this event and to Kayla for being such a lovely host. Special mentions to @forknchopsticks and @kimmiebites, it was lovely to meet you.
Located centrally within the city is a small little food haven of Japanese cuisine.
There are three small restaurants that each have a unique take on their menu and food style.
Thanks to Washoku Lovers we were able to stop by to try parts of each menu.
Before I continue on, I think it’s important to note that Washoku Lovers is a group that supports and promotes restaurants with authentic Japanese culture. Working with them has been a huge honour as I admire the way they exhibit their amazing culture and allowing a taste of Japan right here in Sydney.
The three restaurants that we were able to try were Oiden, Mappen and Dera-Uma which all sit side-by-side, nice and cosy Skyplaza on George Street.
Oiden is a ‘bowl bar’ and specializes in don style eating (think katsu don); comforting bowls of rice with delicious toppings like teriyaki chicken and grilled beef. Apart from the general rice bowls, you’re also able to pick some special items from the menu al a carte as a side dish per say.
From Oiden, we were able to try the following:
Al A Carte Roast Beef
The a la carte beef wasn’t exactly part of the usual brief at Oiden but was it a good dish to show their diversity. The beef was tender and soft, with a light but creamy sauce over the top. The cream sauce added a nice contrast in texture and flavour, but it was really the beef shone. The slightly pink beef was lovely with a really juicy profile. This dish also comes available in a bowl if you prefer to enjoy it with rice.
The salmon bowl was topped with a layer of soft pink salmon. At first, I was a little confused as the salmon had a texture that I didn’t recognise.
On tasting I realised the salmon had been minced, which is a little uncommon but not at all strange. The salmon was refreshing and light although it did need a dash of soy sauce to revive an otherwise slightly bland dish.
Personally, I think minced salmon is a little strange and would’ve preferred chunks, but overall it’s not too much of an issue.
Ontama Beef Bowl (top)
My personal favourite from Oiden on the day was the Ontama Beef Bowl. The beef itself comes with a slight marinade and pickle to garnish which is rich in flavour. The addition of soy sauce isn’t necessary but is certainly a nice add on for those who are salt lovers like me.
The best part, in my opinion, was the soft cooked egg on top!
The rich yolk added a nice moisture to the rice as well as enriching the protein in the beef.
I can certainly say that the way Oiden’s eggs are cooked absolutely perfectly!
Mappen, on the other hand, is known as the noodle bar amongst the three restaurants, specializing in soba and udon. The small little store knows all about broths and comfort.
The sheer simplicity of the restaurant gives conviction to the complexity of the flavours and bowls.
There is self-service where you also have access to items such as tempura or seaweed salad to build your side dishes.
From Mappen, this is what we tried!
Tonkotsu Karaage with Udon
Tonkotsu is a go-to broth for the more cooler nights as its creamy and rich and all-around delicious. It’s an ever popular broth choice for ramen and is available in virtually every ramen joint. This’ll be a first time trying the broth with udon noodles as I’m used to trying it with a clear shoyu/soy like broth.
I think in future I’d probably stick with clear broths with udon as a thick noodle I find works best with a contrasting broth. Also, I’d probably steer clear of putting karaage in a broth as it quickly gets soggy. That being said all the elements on their own were beautiful, however didn’t quite work cohesively together.
Tonkotsu Black with Udon
The Tonkotsu black udon was similar to the Karaage udon in the way that the broth base was practically the same. The differing factor was a small addition of black garlic alongside a topping of minced pork rather than karaage. The minced pork has a small kick from the chilli which carries throughout the rest of the soup. In this instance, I think the flavouring and the topping of the soup worked nicely, although once again I felt like udon was a little heavy for me.
Tsukumen with Soba
Considering the recent summer heatwaves I thought the choice of cold tsukumen would be great. Since soba is such a healthy and smaller noodle, it was both light in flavour as it was in texture.
The idea of tsukumen is to dip your soba noodles into a rich clear soup.
The simplicity of this dish doubled with the light clear soup and the intense heat made this one of my favourite dishes from Mappen.
As a combination of the two, and almost like a step up from Oiden, Dera-Uma serves a variety of high quality rice boxes and bowls which are all made to order.
With a wide and diverse menu it was hard to pick what we wanted first.
Dera-Uma have an interesting curry option on their menu – a salmon curry. I’d never tried this before, usually sticking with a chicken or pork katsu, however wwe found it worked pretty well! There was that earthy Japanese curry taste combined with some saltiness from the salmon to provide an intriguing variety of flavours. The salmon itself was a little over-cooked from the heat of the curry, though it was still delicious. The ball of rice padded the dish out, turning it into a meal option.
Pork Lovers Box
The Pork lovers box came in a lovely bento style box filled with rice and a layer of shredded pork to top it off. The pork had a nice savoury flavouring throughout the beef. There was no need for sauce as the meat was nice and moist with a perfect ratio of rice and meat.
The shallots added a touch of fragrance and overall the bento was a very hearty dish.
DX Favourites Box
A favourite for all amongst the table, the DX favourites box held both hamburg and tender beef in the box atop a bed of rice. Again, the addition of a half boiled egg just made this dish melt in richness and protein. I’m not sure what the meat is marinated in or if it’s just really well seasoned but it was delicious regardless.
One of the biggest things that struck me about all three of these restaurants were that firstly, the flavouring was authentic, and secondly, it was extremely well valued. Considering the quality of the food that we received, each of the dishes were priced at $15 and under.
Additionally, as a member of Washoku Lovers, you’re also entitled to access certain coupon deals on the website for all three of the restaurants. I think this a great spot to get fantastic food for a small price that is filling and offers an authentic snapshot of Japan’s diverse dining scene.
Written by Jay Santiago (@eatventures_)