MANPUKU (105 McCaul, at Dundas, 416-?979-?6763) Complete meals for $10 per person, including all taxes, tip and a Japanese soda. Average main $5. Open Monday to Wednesday 10 am to 8 pm, Thursday and Friday 10 am to 11 pm, Saturday 11 am to 11 pm. Closed Sunday, holidays. Unlicensed. Access: barrier-?free. Rating: NNN
Billing itself as a “modern Japanese eatery,” Manpuku, the six-week- old resto in the Village by the Grange, sets itself apart from virtually every other Japanese joint in the GTA by not serving sushi.
Instead, it offers an extremely inexpensive card of Osaka-centric noodle soups and dumpling dishes in casually modern digs that belie its food court setting. Grab a seat at the U-shaped bar that faces an open kitchen and plant your kisser in a steaming bowl of Kake Udon ($3.99), thick slurpable wheat noodles in fishy soy broth topped with sliced pink kamaboko fish cake and a chiffonade of scallion tops.
Niku Udon ($5.99) replaces processed seafood with thinly shaved and slightly fatty beef in a teriyaki-style sauce, the sinewy meat and chewy pasta a delicious contrast in textures. You feel the soup on your tongue as much as you taste it.
Heat wave getting you down? Go for a bowl of Hiyashi Kitsune ($5.49), a heap of cold udon dressed with sweet deep-fried aburaage bean curd skin and bits of deep-fried tempura batter, plus a second bowl of cool broth on the side for dipping. Double the noodels in any soup for $1.10.
Although they take about 15 minutes to prepare, Takoyaki ($4.99 for six) are well worth the wait. Baked in a special pan, these doughy golden dumplings have a tender nugget of octopus at their core and come garnished with bonito flakes, powdered seaweed and sweet Japanese mayo. However, you might want to pass on Takosen ($2.99) – a trio of Takoyaki on senbei rice crackers – unless you have a yen for Styrofoam.
And definitely file Natto Gohan ($3.99, with rice) under “acquired taste” unless the prospect of salty fermented soybeans, pickled yam and slimy okra sounds appetizing. Today’s “daily cake” ($3.99) turns out to be plain ol’ banana bread, while Pudding ($2.49) could best be described as generic crème caramel. Tasty enough, though.
According to the owner/chef, who only goes by the name Sid, the restaurant’s name literally translates as “I’m full.” $10 and you will be.