Exploring Manpuku, modern Japanese comfort food at its finest.
Hidden away in the “Village by the Grange” food court lies one of Toronto’s most beloved Japanese eateries. Originally opened as an udon restaurant in 2008, Manpuku has slowly introduced Torontonians to a variety of novel dishes, all capturing the authentic flavours of Japanese comfort food. Owner Sakiko Ichihara strives to present delicious and satisfying portions at reasonable prices, making her cus- tomers leave happily with a manpuku (or “full stomach”). Though udon is the house specialty at Manpuku, there is an assortment of dishes available to satisfy everyone’s tastebuds! I usually order the classic udon combo, which comes with an appetizer and a side dish, but today we were presented with two of Manpuku’s most popular rice dishes and a side of takoyaki.
The first was Natto Curry. Natto is a fermented soybean that’s known for its health benefits. With its acquired taste and unusual texture, natto is a polarizing dish: most people either love it or hate it. Now, although I am usually in the latter group, this natto was uniquely presented with fragrant Japanese curry, which toned down the usual strong, pungent flavour to a comforting level. There was also an extra dimension of flavour coming from the wakame (seaweed) hidden between the layers of curry and rice. The flavours all complemented each other nicely. Surprisingly, I would happily order this again.
Next up was Hotate Rice. What looked like okonomiyaki (Japanese pancake) was actually a golden-brown, hotate (baby scallop) omelette on a bed of white rice, drizzled with Japanese mayonnaise and okonomiyaki sauce, topped with sesame seeds, bonito and seaweed flakes. The taste was a mix of savoury and sweet, with a deep, barbecued seafood aroma that easily matched the seafood grills on the beaches of Japan. And last but not least was takoyaki—battered, fried balls filled with octopus, ginger and green onions. With a light, crisp outer layer and a soft, chewy interior, it’s no wonder these warm, delightful bursts of flavour are one of the regulars’ (and my) favourite dishes. Definitely a must-try! (Just allow 20 minutes, as they are made to order.)
This Manpuku visit has definitely swayed me to return and explore the rest of their menu. For a “Tokyo fast-food” restaurant experience, I strongly encourage you to drop by. (And first-timers, go for the takoyaki!)
Staff: Ria Kim
Ria is a local TO foodie who loves exploring authentic Japanese restaurants in the Greater Toronto Area. Ever since her summer exchange in Tokyo, her palate for Japanese food quality and flavours has never been the same. When she’s not on the look-out for new eats with friends, you can find her fiddling on Illustrator or preparing for her next trip abroad.
Manpuku Modern Japanese Eatery
105 McCaul St. #29-31, Toronto | www.manpuku.ca
OPEN: Mon–Wed 11:30 am–8 pm • Thurs–Fri 11:30 am– 11 pm • Sat 12 pm–11 pm • Sun by appointment