Are you here because you want to know where to eat the best udon in Tokyo? Don’t worry, I’ve got your back, especially if you invite me to the udon bar with you!
When you think of Japan and noodles, the noodles that come to mind are ramen: thick and creamy stock with lip smacking slicks of fat, perfectly chewy noodles, juicy chashu, and that jammy sunny yellow yolk ramen egg. But, did you know, aside from the many, many variations of ramen —dipping tsukemen, oil and vinegary abura soba, soupless topping rich mazemen, dumpling-full wantanmen— there’s a humble, not so sexy noodle that’s begging to be eaten? I’m talking about UDON: the queen of noodles.
T H I C C and chewy and just about the perfect shape, udon noodles are one of my favorite, if not my most favorite noodle to noodle binge on while in Tokyo. See, the thing is, there are definitely at lot of ramen joints all over the world now. Heck, Ippudo is basically McDonalds. So, I don’t have to worry too much when a ramen craving hits. Plus, not to toot our own horns or anything, but we’re pretty decent at making ramen noods. What is not as common, or strangely enough, as easy to make, are perfect udon noodles.
Good udon are pleasantly chewy, smooth and supple, and on the firm side. Usually the good stuff is made in house: you can see a udon master rolling our cutting out udon. What I love about udon in Tokyo, aside from the freshness, is the fact that they have so many innovative dishes. Of course they have your standard udon in dashi with freshly fried tempura, but they also have fun things like udon carbonara. Anyway, here’s a solid list of where to eat udon in Tokyo!
If you’re ever wandering the streets of Jinbocho and happen upon a white noren (curtain over the doorway) with a long line up, line up immediately! It’ll most likely be Udon Maruka, a no-frills favorite of office workers and students. You’ll get a menu even before entering the doors and your order will be taken while you’re still standing outside. The Sanuki/Kagawa-style udon here is sublime: perfectly chewy and oh-so satsifying. The line moves fast, so don’t worry if it looks long. Pro-tip: supposedly they don’t like it when you take pictures inside —it’s more of a eat and run kind of place— so don’t be a bothersome tourist and take millions of photos while people are anxiously waiting to get their udon fix.
I had the kama-tama udon: udon in a delicately flavored dashi topped with a fresh egg and a generous bunch of green onions. Mike had the niku udon, his usual order of udon topped with thinly sliced quickly braised beef. We got some tempura too because tempura and udon go together hand in hand. The kashiwaten (chicken tempura) is crispy and juicy and fresh. They also have tins of crispy tempura bits on the tables that you can add – I always add a bunch 🙂
3-16-1 Kanda-Ogawamachi, Chiyoda-ku Tokyo
Mon-Fri 11 am – 7:30 pm, Sat 11 am – 2:30pm / Closed Sun & holidays
Closest station: Jinbocho
Taniya is another excellent Sanuki udon joint where you can peep on the udon chef making fresh udon in the glass enclosed udon making area. The dashi/soup base here is made from sardines as opposed to the more common katsuobushi/bonito and it makes for a very lovely tasting deep flavor. They have a pretty fun menu and they also do seasonal udons so go more than once to try it all out. They have a variety of tempura and toppings and there’s an English menu, if you need it. Pro-tip: sit at the bar, if you can so you can watch the chefs put together the bowls as well as fry tempura. Oh, they also ask you what size udon you want. I usually go with small and Mike gets medium but if you have an extremely large appetite, you can go for the big size too; all the sizes are the same price.
2-15-17 Nihonbashi-Ningyocho, Tokyo
11 am – 3 pm, 6 pm – 10:30 pm daily
Closest station: Ningyocho
Shin Udon is probably one of the more well known udon joints in Tokyo. A few years ago it wasn’t super busy, but these days there’s usually a line and it’s usually made up of tourists. Not like that’s a bad thing. The noodles are made in house and the dishes are creative and fun. I usually get the hot soy sauce udon with butter, pepper, and soft boiled egg and it is hands down, one of my favorite ways to eat udon. Kind of like a creamy baconless carbonara. But if you’re feeling like bacon, they have that too: a carbonara-style bowl with parmesan, egg, butter, pepper, green onions, and bacon tempura. Seriously, how do they come up with this stuff? Mike can vouch for the niku udon of course. Oh and the kashiwa/chicken tempura is hot and fresh. Side note: the doneness of the noodles at Shin are on the softer side, I’m not sure if that’s concession to tourists or not, but years ago the noodles were perfect. They’re still good now, but don’t expect a firm udon.
2-20-16 Yoyogi-Shibuya Tokyo
Sun-Thurs 11 am – 10 pm, Fri-Sat 11 am – 11 pm
Closest Station: Shinjuku
Sanuki Udon is probably a bit out of the way for most people who don’t want to leave the Tokyo core, but if you do make it out to Akabane, the udon is top notch. Sumita has been around for a while and they used to be one of the only places in Tokyo to offer Sanuki style udon. They have hot and cold offerings and the most popular dish is the kashiwa oroshi bukkake, slippery udon noodles topped with grated daikon, sesame seeds, nori, green onions, and juicy crispy chicken tempura. The udon are some of the best we’ve ever had but the stand out here is the chicken tempura. We ordered six on the side and the couple in front of us looked shocked/impressed but when it was delivered, the looks on their faces were pure envy.
2-52-8 Shimo, Kita-ku Tokyo
Tue-Fri 11 am – 2 pm, 6:30 pm – 9.30 pm; Sat, Sun & hols 11 am-3 pm / closed Mon, 1st & 3rd Sun of every month
Closest Station: Akabane
Anpuku is located in Toranomon Hills, a fancy skyscraper (the tallest in Tokyo) that mixes retail, offices, and a hotel. The hotel has insane views on its rooftop bar and if you’re looking for good coffee you should hit up Toranomon Koffee after your udon fix. Anpuku is wafu style (Japanese) dishes with udon instead of pasta or noodles. Think: creamy carbonara, four cheese with clams, tomato and basil, to name a few. It’s cute sunny room on the fourth floor and you’ll see lots of young couples slurping udon out of massive oversized bowls.
4F Toranomon Hills, 1-26 Toranomon, Minato-ku Tokyo
Mon-Fri 11 am-3 pm, 5 pm-11 pm; Sat, Sun & hols 11 am-3 pm, 5 pm-10 pm
Closest Station: Toranomon
If you’re hanging out in Ebisu and an udon craving hits, go to Yamacho, a cute and friendly udon restaurant. The room is super inviting: lots of wood, lots of natural lighting, and very zen. There’s a communal wooden table in the center and a couple of tables near the windows. The noodles here come in thick and thin – udon is not always thick – I chose the thick version, which is not as thick as your traditional sanuki-style udon. They do have an English menu, but it’s limited, most of the specials are on the Japanese menu, but Google Translate is your friend.
1-1-5 Ebisu, Shibuya-ku Tokyo
11 am-4 pm, 5 pm-12 midnight daily
Closest Station: Ebisu
Super simple, super cheap, fast udon in the heart of Shinjuku. Mentsudan is a step up from your chain udon restaurants (I’m looking at you Hanamaru and Marugame – not that those aren’t two excellent chains if you’re in the mood for a self-service udon chain): they make their noodles in house by expert udon makers who apprenticed in Kagawa, where sanuki udon is from. At the front of the store you choose your udon dish, then head down the line and pick out pieces of tempura to go with. Don’t forget to add the free bits: tenkasu tempura bits, green onions, and grated ginger. If you’re having hot udon, add your dashi at the end, pay and slurp away!
Daikan Plaza Business Kiyoda Bldg 1F, 7-9-15 Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku Tokyo
Nearest Station: Shinjuku, Exit D5
Alright, go forth and udon!