No. Thank you Manpuku!

Hidden in the Grange food court not far from where I live (I seem to eat in that food court a lot) is a little gem called Manpuku.  A friend of mine sent me a newspaper article on the place several years ago and after trying it out for the first time in the summer of 2008, I was hooked.

Now in the summer of 2008 I had recently started my first job out of school.  That meant I actually had money in my bank account which meant Friday nights, after a long week of work, were… well let’s just say they were fun.  Feeling a little under the weather the following morning/afternoon, there’s nothing that made me feel better than a nice warm bowl of noodles.  The udon noodle soups at Manpuku really hit the spot.  The first is the wakame udon, plain udon in broth and topped with seaweed.

I’m pretty sure the noodles are made to order.  They come out cooked perfectly, not too soggy but still cooked all the way through.  The broth is tasty but not overly salty either.  The seaweed, is seaweed.  I’m not sure if you can make seaweed taste really good or really bad.  It’s a little refreshing but doesn’t really stand out.  Most times I make my way to Manpuku I opt for the curry udon or the niku udon (seen below).

The niku udon has thinly shaved beef or pork, onions and a blend of their “special” sauce.  I don’t know what is in their special sauce but it’s good.  It’s not as plain as the wakame udon and almost has a slight sweetness but slightly salty with a hint of other Japanese spices.  They also have a “don” version of this dish but instead of the udon noodles, it’s over rice.  Below is the curry don which has thinly shaved beef, onions, a lot of curry sauce over rice.

I was a little worried at first when I ordered this since I don’t like eating plain rice.  Thankfully when it came out, I saw there was a LOT of curry sauce that was soaked up by the rice.  By the time I was done with the bowl, there wasn’t a drop of anything left.  Japanese curry isn’t like Indian curries.  It’s not as hot.  In fact these ones aren’t spicy at all.  They do have a curry flavor to them but it’s a little smoother and more velvety.  I want to say richer but Indian curries are packed with so much flavor I’m not sure if “richer” is the right word.  I like to throw this Japanese spice they provide (see top corner of picture) to kick up the heat a little bit.

The side dishes at Manpuku are also noteworthy.  Their takoyaki (flour with octopus in the center grilled on a special hot plate, topped with takoyaki sauce, katsuo and aonori) is really good.  The flakes on the top make it look like it’s still alive since they flicker around caused by the rising heat of the octopus balls.  Hehehe… Octopus balls (I know, I’m a child!).  Here is the takosen which is the takoyaki served on a senbei, topped with takoyaki sauce and Japanese mayo.

There is also the onigiri which is basically a ball of rice stuffed with random stuff.  The rice is seasoned with Japanese seasoning which tastes awesome.  There is also the fancier yakionigiri which is a version of the rice ball that is grilled with miso or soy sauce.  As I mentioned above, I’m not a big fan of just plain rice but this ball of rice is pretty tasty.  Given the cost (which is still really cheap) I would probably go with the Octopus balls but I think I would mix it up with the rice balls every once in a while.

The service at this place is also awesome and the prices are super cheap (the most expensive menu item is $6.99).  The friendly staff greets you as you come in (which I’m told is pretty customary in Japan… also done at the recently popular Guu) and thanks you on the way out.  They are very attentive, quick to serve you tea as soon as you sit down and really cater to your every need.  Almost too much.  I’m not use to such attentive and humble service so I always feel kind of bad that they are trying so hard.  I end up tipping a lot because of it.  Maybe it’s their ploy from the start.  Anyways, next time when they tell me, “Thank you sir” on my way out I’ll reply back, “No.  Thank you Manpuku”… or “Thank you cute waitress who works behind the counter”.  Either one will work right?

~ by jlowjlow on March 19, 2010.

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