[Tokyo] Singaporeans seem to have a much deeper obsession with Japanese ramen than udon. This is partly because we generally prefer thinner noodles, and there are not many udon specialty shops around to begin with.
When in Tokyo, it is good opportunity to try what authentic Udon REALLY tastes like.
I heard a lot about this Udon eatery in Shinjuku Tokyo, and found a reason to satisfy that craving in the cool weather.
Located in Western Shinjuku, Tokyo Mentsudan Udon 東京麺通団 is a self-service restaurant that focuses on noodles from Kagawa Prefecture also known as Sanuki Udon.
A gourmet columnist Masahiko Katsuya and the head of an udon aficionado club Kazutoshi Tao, are the owners of this establishment.
The interior is basic with a couple of wooden tables and a long counter with barstools where customers can have their food.
There is a menu with photographs of dishes displayed at the entrance to help you decide what to order.
Here’s the thing: As this is self-service and Japanese in Shinjuku are generally fast-moving (they queue, they buy, they eat, they go), you do not want to be that tourist that obstructs the queue.
Look for the laminated English menu first (it is NOT on the wall) but decide what you want first.
For a start, the Udon noodles are either in hot or cold soups, indicated by a red (hot) or blue (cold) circle. It is really up to your preference, though the weather is also a deciding factor.
The basic Plain Udon is at ¥310 (SGD$3.70), while the other choices include Beef with concentrated broth (¥560, SGD$6.70), Seasoned cod roe and soy sauce (¥410, SGD$4.90), Scrambled egg and soy sauce (¥360, SGD$4.30) and Natto, raw egg and soy sauce (¥410, SGD$4.90).
An inexpensive meal.
The great thing about this place is that the Japanese staff makes the noodles right in front of you, which means that the noodles are always super fresh and handmade.
Since this is a self-service joint, you pay as soon as you choose your toppings, udon, and sides. There are numerous options to choose from and customers are encouraged to create their own favorite version of sanuki udon.
Ordering food is a simple 3-step process here at Tokyo Mentsudan Udon.
The first step is to select an udon dish based on temperature, size, and style of preparation.
At the next station, there is a big counter with 15 types of tempura, side dishes, rice balls, and toppings from salads. The danger here is that everything looks appetising, and you may end up picking more than your stomach can handle.
Also, don’t take your time to pick – you are not picking a husband or wife.
The last stop is at the payment counter and here you can also find a nice selection of complimentary toppings. Feel free to add more soup after you are done!
The Udon was superb. Please do what the Japanese do, which is to slurp them up, ending with the broad smile and look of satisfaction.
Even though the noodles were thick and fat, the texture was firm yet so wonderfully chewy. It is what Italians could call ”al dente”.
Whether in raw egg or simple flavourful broth, the slippery feel was pleasurable. Eating noodles became ‘fun’ again.
If I need to nit-pick, I would wish that the Udon had a slightly softer texture. For the tempura pieces, depending on the time that you come, some could have been sitting there for a while.
I also had the special Chicken Drumstick and it was THE BEST chicken I had in a very long while.
The easiest way to reach Tokyo Mentsudan Udon is to exit on the west side from the Shinjuku station and start walking north.
You will pass by Pepper Lunch and should take the next left turn down the upper road. Tokyo Mentsudan Udon is just a couple of shops from there.
Tokyo Mentsudan Udon
Daikan Plaza Business Kiyoda Bldg 1F, 7-9-15 Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku 160-0023 西新宿ビル(Near Shinjuku station)
Opening Hours: 8:00am – 11:30pm (Mon – Fri), 10:00am – 11:30pm (Sat, Sun)
Google Maps – Tokyo Mentsudan Udon