Fakegf and I took a rather lengthy 12km walk along the bay on one of those Christmas in-lieu weekdays last year. By the end of it, I had a really sore foot while she was absolutely starving for a feed. Knowing that most Western places would be closed, we made a beeline towards the cheap-and-cheery Asian stretch along the tail end of Elizabeth Street.
I’ve always meant to revisit Rose Garden (this time with camera in tow) but it was shut for the holidays. Fakegf was so hungry she didn’t mind where we went, so I chose Menya over Coconut House simply because Japanese feels more refreshing on a warm Summer’s day.
Menya’s frontage was so pretty that I had no clue it was part of a chain of stores, with one branch in Melbourne Central. In fact, it’s actually part of the O-Bento empire of eating stores, which also encompasses Rush Sushi. After sitting down, I started getting the impression I was at a Japanese fast food joint. Browse the photo-rich menu, choose the dishes you want, order at counter, and bring a number tag back with you to your table.
To add to the cheap-joint factor, here’s our table water: tap water with fruits and things in the bottle, and styrofoam cups!!! Fakegf was ceaselessly amused by the bottle of fruit-flavoured water, she could even taste all the components in it. Cute touch, and it certainly made an interesting photo subject.
And it doesn’t end there, this is what we ordered from the menu:
The Menya Sashimi $10.90.
House special sashimi of raw fish
And guess what arrived at our table??
It was really really amusing! Couldn’t help but smile… they certainly aren’t going for presentation factor here by any long shot. But hey… the fish was fresh enough, and at that price point, I ain’t complaining. I was tickled by the whole thing more than anything else
Fortunately, my Nabeyaki Udon – one tempura prawn w assortment of vegetables and pork served w thick noodles in soup stock $9.2 did not arrive in a styrofoam or plastic bowl. It would feel super food court if that was the case.
While the broth could’ve been hotter, but there was a milky clean-ness to it that I found quite enjoyable. And I also liked how it wasn’t overly salty, made it so drinkable that I slurped up every last drop of soup with ease. The pork pieces were soft and yummy, and I pretty much enjoyed all the other ingredients. It was quite a decent feed.
Fakegf did actually baulk just a little when I chose Menya, because she’s been to the Melbourne Central branch and gave it a big FAIL. She chose not to mention that fact until our meal was ordered. And just as well, because her Gin Seng Ramen – imported Japanese soba cooked w pork bone in special homemade ginseng soup $9.9 wasn’t too shabby either!
Okay, the ramen itself was overcooked, but she loved the generous serve of bamboo shoots. The broth was also quite delightful with a herbal tint of ginseng, and the pork pieces were yummy, albeit a little fiddly to eat. All in all, she declared it was still very satisfying.
Looking back, I wonder whether our 12 km walk earlier worked up a massive (non-choosy) appetite, or if the food was actually good. Who knows? Either way, the dishes are so cheap!
With a smouldering plantar fasciitis trying to set foot on my foot (pun!… her her…), we opted not to walk any further for our desserts and had it in-house instead.
Fakegf’s homemade black sesame in sweet $3.5 (that’s how the menu said it) was weird, to say the least. We assume it’s Japanese style… the soup was less thick, less sweet and with a starchy, slimy consistency. I think we didn’t enjoy this only because we’re so used to the Hong Kong style black sesame soup, which usually tastes thick, rich and aromatic.
My dessert, the Azuki Shiratama $3.5, also walked down a similar lane —> Weird. The soup this time was very sweet and quite reminiscent of Chinese red bean soup, but with some odd floral elements to it. But the mochi-looking glutinous rice balls-on-a-stick were very different to what I’m used to. They all had different fillings each: black sesame, mung bean and red beans. But all the balls also had a strange floral scent to them that I didn’t really warm up to. Interesting…. but weird, haha!
There were several entertaining aspects about eating at this cheap and cheery joint (fruit water, styrofoam cups, takeaway sashimi… lols). While it isn’t outstanding in quality, it’s very affordable and quite a satisfying feed (aside for the weird desserts).