Fasten your seat belt because an eating experience at Marugame Udon is unlike any you’ve had. Opening at South Coast Plaza early next year, the dining destination is based around the popular Japanese wheat flour noodle called udon. These bold, girthy, slippery noodles with a pearly white gloss are the main attraction, and fans around the world queue up eagerly for Marugame’s made-to-order bowls.
More than a restaurant, Marugame also doubles as an udon factory, steadily rolling out and hand-cutting plump, springy noodles. The versatility of udon makes them suitable for dipping into traditional kake sauce (dashi, mirin, soy) as well as slurping straight out of a savory tonkotsu (pork) broth. Whichever way you decide to devour udon, it makes for lively noodling.
Marugame originates from its namesake city in the Kagawa Prefecture of Japan, where udon is revered. The company’s reputation for crafting Sanuki-style udon, freshly fried tempura and musubi is well-known by foodies. Guests enjoy Marugame’s signature bowls like the Nikutama with sweet, tender beef slices and onsen tamago (soft boiled egg), or curry style, tickling taste buds with its distinct savory sweetness, while some purists prefer the fresh noodles themselves with only a basic broth called kake-dashi simmered from kombu (Japanese kelp), bonito and aromatic soy sauce.
Ready to eat? Like many udon shops in Japan, this operation is run cafeteria-style: get in line, grab a tray, slide to the long order counter and ask for your bowl of choice. There are about 15 variations of udon from which to pick. Every slick strand is crafted with carefully selected wheat flour.
When an order is placed, a coil of udon is quickly immersed in hot water for cooking. Continue down the line and peruse the tempting tempura on display, everything from kakiage (a tumbleweed of various veggies), to plump shrimp and sweet potato. Grab a rice treat called musubi, each wrapped with nori and flavored with ingredients like salmon, pollock roe or crab meat. As soon as an udon bowl is ready, the cook places it on the guest’s tray. Now it’s time to garnish. Freshly chopped green onion, cilantro, grated ginger and sinus-clearing wasabi along with puffy tempura flakes are offered at the complimentary condiment bar. The umami-rich tentsuyu sauce for dipping tempura as well as other sauces are also available.
Now that your Marugame Udon bowl is custom garnished, what are you waiting for? Start slurping.