With its frigid fingers curled around the city, Winter has arrived (returned?) in an icy exhalation. The sidewalks are dusted with a glittering veil that is quickly obliterated by pedestrians treading upon it. There’s no casual idling outside today. Everyone walks at a fast clip in the fading light, heading home to seek refuge from the cold. Or if you’re me, heading out. Nights like these call for a steaming bowl of soup and noodles to banish the lingering chill that clings to your bones. And it’s on nights like these, moreso than usual, that I seek the comforting warmth-in-a-bowl that Manpuku provides.

Located inside the Grange and past the main food-court area, Manpuku isn’t a fancy place, but it’s far from a hole in the wall. Udon and rice are the main offerings on the menu and nothing passes the $7 mark. For the adventurous, there’s the natto gohan as a snack. For those extra-hungry types, take note of the noodle re-fill option at just over $1. For those seeking more selection, make sure you check their special menu, offering dishes like Hayashi rice. Need something quick? Grab a pair of their onigiri and run.

But it is the udon that I find myself craving. Thick, with just the right chew, and swimming in a basic broth or topped with curry. I’m likely to choose any of the bowls on offer on a given night. It just depends on my mood.

This time, I opt for the niku udon to warm me back up and fend off the cold after being outside. With piles of thinly sliced beef (though I prefer the pork) and onions, this is a frequent order.

For the diet-concious, you can get the carb-free shirataki noodle option for an extra charge. While I enjoy the crunch of this noodle, I’d stick to the basic-broth bowls when ordering this supplement. Curry shirataki noodle just doesn’t seem right.

Not on the main menu, but a staple of the special menu, is the chicken miso udon.

I also have jumbo inari as a part of my regular order these days. I can never finish both fat tofu pockets of rice, so I take one home for breakfast the next morning. It doesn’t really matter that I’m really not hungry after a large bowl of noodles. I really enjoy the taste of this and can’t resist.

For dessert, they have black sesame ice cream – intense in both colour and flavour. Though you may wish to opt for something else if you’re on a date. Maybe stick to the ice cream mochi. I suggest the red bean.

I used to order the takoyaki a lot (before inari came on to the scene!). Hot spheres of a savoury custard with a nugget of octopus inside. I love the bonito flakes that dance from the heat emanating off the takoyaki. They seem almost alive.

Manpuku fulfills our cost-distance-taste requirements, a happy trifecta that ensures frequent visits. But it has become more than that. When you visit a place often enough, you start to notice the regulars. It’s when they start recognizing you that you realize you’re a regular too. So even after saying good night and heading out into the cold, you take the lingering warmth of noodle, soup, and company home with you.

  • Manpuku 105 McCaul St. Unit 29-31, Toronto

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