Black, white and Japanese writing. A sample of Menya's card and logo.
Sydney’s Market Street is filled with bustling office employees, high-rise buildings and quiet alley-ways hiding small cafes and restaurants that awaken at the strike of noon. It is inside one of these alley-ways where Menya Noodle Bar opens its doors and comes alive once the lunch-hour approaches, bringing its fast-paced service and generous servings to accommodate the hungry customers that emerge out of their offices.
Like its name suggests, Menya’s ambience delivers a cross between a casual and sophisticated bar setting. The interior is comprised of black painted walls, shelves of industrial metal and stainless steel, and tables scattered around the premises which add extra seating among the bar stools and benches already set up towards the front entrance. Varnished tanned surfaced are used, adding a little contrast and lighting up the dark atmosphere.
Take-away line starts here
The story of this little restaurant and noodle bar is inspired by the 21st Century Japan ramen war. With over 100 000 specialty ramen stores opening around the world, the competition for the best ramen continues to live on. It is from this ideology that Menya strives on its quest to ensure that all their ramen dishes never fall short on quality.
Apart from noticing the fluorescent Menya sign that is splashed across the front bench; two metal and glass window cabinets sit adjacent to the sign, providing hot take-away food for those unable to dine in. However, for those who are lucky to find a spot amongst the busy atmosphere, a separate counter for eat-in customers is situated inside, just as you enter into the noodle bar.
Menya's lunch and dinner menu plastered on the wall
Cardboard and paper signs are scattered across the walls and counters, advertising special lunch deals on offer. However, being categorised as a cheap eats restaurant, Menya’s meal prices are already considered a bargain with most dishes sitting at no more than $10. Above and behind the counter, the menu is written and printed with images, and short, written descriptions to assist in your meal decision.
On offer at Menya are a range of popular, traditional Japanese lunch meals such as Donburi (bowl dishes), Bento (box dishes), as well as a small handful of a la carte and appetiser options to add on to your meal. If you are a fan of rice dishes, Japanese Curry Rice meals will fill you up nicely, served with your choice of curry and a large serving of steamed rice. Yet if you visit on a cold, wintery day, you might like to try one of the Ramen dishes and allow the hot soup to travel down your throat and warm up your hungry belly.
Japanese Dim Sims - deep-fried and drizzled with mayonnaise
Start off your Menya meal with a serving of Japanese Dim Sims ($5.90). On top of this oval, smooth-surface serving plate sits six crunchy dim sims on a bed of crisp ramen noodles; a side of mixed-leaf salad; a drizzle of mayonnaise for extra flavour, and a sprinkle of sesame seeds. These dim sims are deep-fried to create an enjoyable crispy and golden texture, delivering something quite different to the traditional steamed dim sims. The pastry encasing the meat filling is relatively thin, which in itself helps to create the crunchy texture that is desired from the dish. While it did lean towards the saltier side, it is nevertheless great value for money with a very generous serving size.
Karaage Curry - delicious Japanese curry sauce served with steamed rice, pickled radish and a few pieces of deep-fried chicken.
Fans of Japanese curry will happily enjoy a plate of Karaage Curry ($11.90). Menya takes the popular crunchy Karaage chicken and rather than just having it as an a la carte option, it is combined together with the mild Japanese curry sauce to create a beautiful fusion of two favourites. Alongside the deep-fried chicken and sauce sits a dome of steamed white rice and garnishes of red pickled radish for extra flavour. Although curry has a reputation of being quite hot and spicy, Menya’s curry is friendly to those with a sensitive tongue to spicy food. It is heavy and hearty, yet still maintains the smooth and silky texture expected from a curry. The Karaage chicken also gives the dish a little extra texture to balance the smoothness of the sauce.
Wafu Shoyu Ramen - Roasted pork ramen in a Japanese soup of double chicken and seafood with a soy sauce base.
Dining in a noodle bar makes it all the more reason to order a bowl of steaming soup and slippery noodles. Menya has an extensive range of noodle dishes, offered in your choice of ramen (wavy egg and wheat noodles), udon (thick wheat noodles) or soba (thin buckwheat noodles). Additionally, some soup bases are also offered in shoyu, miso, salt or tonkotsu flavour.
There are certain noodles, however, which already have their flavour base set. Such is the Wafu Shoyu Ramen ($9.90), uniquely flavoured with a Japanese flavour soup of double chicken and seafood. In this bowl of ramen soup you will find a few slices of roasted pork; pieces of fish cakes and bamboo shoots; garnishes of shallots and sesame seeds, as well as extra ingredients of boiled egg and dried seaweed to complete the ramen look. The ramen has a deep and rich flavour, adding satisfaction to the slurping of noodles and the licking of lips as the soup is sipped by the spoon. It’s full of texture and filled with a combination of flavours that make it the ideal lunch meal for a winter day.
The complete dining experience at Menya Noodle Bar
For quality ramen that is served in a stylish dining environment, Menya prides on delivering just that. If you are lucky enough to avoid the long lines of this popular Japanese eatery, you will find yourself mesmerised by the generous servings of the dishes, together with the care taken into its presentation, and the reasonable prices that makes it all the more reason to come back for more.
This Menya flag is hard to miss. Dine here for your next lunch or dinner.
Where: Menya Noodle Bar (CBD), Shop 2, 1 Market Street, Sydney NSW.
Why: Reasonable prices, where most meals average $10. Generous servings, fast service and just three minutes walk from Town Hall station.
Cost: Japanese Curry ranging from $9.50 - $11.90, Ramen noodles ranging from $7.90 - $11.90, A La Carte items ranging from $4.50 - $8.90.
When: Mon - Sat, Lunch 12-3pm, Dinner 6-10pm.