When it comes to Japanese food, besides ramen, sushi, and sashimi, what else do you think of? Many associate noodles dishes with Japan especially ramen, soba and udon. In this feature, we introduce some of the most delicious udon restaurants in Tokyo.
For the unacquainted, udon are thick noodles made of flour; the thickness and width can be varied based on region.
The image of udon in everyone’s head is usually that of white, cylindrical, thick noodles, right? Hanayama’s udon are extra wide, flat and smooth, known as Onihimokawa (鬼ひも川).
The restaurant is located close to Ginza Station and it enjoys popularity among all age groups. Because the noodles are so delicious, the store has won the No. 1 award for 3 years in a row. The look and appearance of the udon here is novel making it particularly popular among youngsters. Beware, it may take some time before you get seats. You can check the wait period in real time on Google Maps just to avoid crowds.
There are two main types of udon: onikama (鬼釜) which is hot and zaru-nimi (ざる二味) which is cold. The hot onikama is served in a cute, tanuki-shaped bowl. Not only is the presentation impactful, but it is also the dish that was awarded the number 1 spot in Japan. You can choose additional items like tempura or pork over rice.
This is what the Zaru-nimi udon looks like. The vessel it is served in is as interesting as the tanuki-shaped bowl! Zaru is a draining basket made of bamboo, you can see it right in the center.
With this dish, you can enjoy two kinds of dipping sauce: an exclusive shoyu tsuyu (soy) and goma tsuyu (sesame).
This restaurant has its origins in Gunma Prefecture with a history of about 150 years.
We chose to have tempura as well and it was beyond our expectations in terms of taste.
This is what the Onikama Udon looks like. The bowl features Japan’s beloved tanuki (raccoon dog) and has an eye-catching design with immense detail.
Ginza Sato Yosuke
The next famous udon restaurant is Ginza Sato Yosuke. Located in one of the backstreets of Ginza, the menu here at first glance might seem like that of any other udon restaurant. When you look closely, the udon have a certain shine, unlike any other, so much so that you can feel the deliciousness of this udon!
This is another popular udon restaurant in Ginza and you might have to wait for a while. Make sure to check real time data on Google Maps.
The menu here focuses on the zaru style than a hot bowl of udon. Seasonal specials are a delight especially for regular customers. This time, it was the Thai flavors of green curry and tom yum.
This is what the most popular set here looks like; it includes shiny udon accompanied by dipping soy sauce, sesame sauce, a few pickles, finely chopped spring onions, grated ginger, wasabi.
The udon is shiny, smooth and thinner than other places. It has just the right bite and chewiness. The tsuyu sauce here is mellow but is a perfect fit for the delicious udon and tempura.
You can choose a set with tempura and there is no better match for udon than crispy, crunchy tempura. A line of dry goods is also available so you can make some of these udon for yourself at home.
Yamashita Honki Udon
This restaurant has a stylish decor that makes it popular among youngsters. The flavor for the soups comes from kombu (edible kelp) and katsuo (bonito). In addition to the standard and traditional udon, there is also a contemporary fusion version making it suitable for all ages. There are two branches in Shibuya and one in Kagurazaka.
We visited the one in Dogenzaka, Shibuya.
It is a 3-minute walk from JR Shibuya Station and 30 seconds from Shibuya Station on the Keio Inokashira Line.
The menu here is extensive so much so that you can try a different one for days. It is well categorized into soy base, curry base, etc.
One of the unique dishes comes with cream. The Shiroi Mentai Cheese Cream Udon is particularly popular. Mentaiko is walleye pollack roe (generally served salted and spiced with red pepper) and shiroi means white.
As you can see, true to its name, its very white and creamy.
The cream cheese squeezed tightly over the udon leaves no sign of any udon underneath it.
On breaking through this cheesy barrier, you can see udon with mentaiko. The udon are made using carefully selected flour that render themselves well to traditional and fusion flavors.
The cream cheese itself is light and fluffy almost like whipped cream. Normally, this combination wouldn’t make sense. However, on mixing the cream with the udon, it is extremely delicious and works really well. The cheese does not overpower any other flavor.
You can also add the restaurant’s unique broth to adjust the intensity of flavor.
The soup adds a beautiful depth to the dish and you can’t stop till you’ve finished the bowl.
When mentaiko is paired with cheese, the unique salty and spicy flavor of mentaiko and the chewiness of the cheese are a wonderful match. This combination with the restaurant’s well-made udon is truly perfect.
The last restaurant in this feature is the No. 1 udon restaurant in Tokyo based on reviews on Tabelog, a restaurant information website. The appearance of this udon bowl maybe the most ordinary compared to the udon introduced above. Simple and traditional, but the reviews for the udon are extraordinary when it comes to taste. Udon noodles are from Kagawa prefecture, famous for its udon, and the aromatic broth is what results in repeat visitors.
Maruka (丸香), located in Jimbocho, has people queuing up for their udon all the time. Since the menu is limited, it doesn’t take too long before you are seated despite the queues.
Before entering the restaurant, the staff will give you a menu: there were a variety of udon as well as fried dishes.
We ordered the wakame udon; wakame is an edible seaweed extremely popular in Japan. The bowl is covered with wakame so much so that seems to be no trace of udon underneath.
On eating the wakame, you can see the delicious udon. These are soft, chewy with a perfect bite.
We also ordered shrimp tempura to go with our udon.
The soup is mellow yet full of flavor; the first bite and you know why people love it so much. The soup has a warmth and heartiness that pairs brilliantly with the udon. The prices here are extremely affordable starting from as low as 420 yen (about 4 USD).
Simplicity is the key of this restaurant and you will be surprised at how overwhelmingly delicious it is.
Recommended links for Udon Maruka
There is no official website, information is available on Japanese gourmet website. Link to Google Maps
Hope this gives you an idea of all the variety of udon available in Japan. Add some of these to your list of things to eat in Tokyo.
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