This week we venture to Little Tokyo for a look at the new hand-made udon house, Marugame Monzo. Head over to our food section to read the full review, or check out some briefer thoughts below.
The Noodles: Americans may obsess more over ramen and soba, but this udon is not to be ignored. Handmade in the open kitchen, Monzo's udon is a show as well as a meal. From the review: "The udon here is Sanuki-style, which is most popular in Shikoku, the smallest island of Japan. Chiefly famous as an important stop for Buddhist pilgrims, the island also is where Monzo's namesake city, Marugame, is located. Sanuki-style noodles are slightly denser and chewier than some softer varieties, thanks to all that pounding as they are rolled and labored over."
Japan meets Italy: My favorite use of Monzo's udon is the traditional udon, particularly the cold udon, which is plain glorious on these hot summer days. But there's also a hefty portion of the menu dedicated to udon with Italian sauces -- udon vongole, or udon with miso carbonara. They're insanely rich and incredibly well done. The house specialty is the uni cream udon, which is a hybrid dish that's quickly gained cult status.
Upscale udon: Perhaps the most interesting thing about Monzo is how they've elevated udon -- usually sold in extremely casual noodle shops -- to a far more upscale experience. From the review: " It's sit-down and upscale, at least for a noodle joint, with black, lacquered tables and a feel that's downright sleek. In this way, Monzo bridges the gap between L.A.'s high-end Japanese restaurants and the low-rent ramen shops that were here even before the current noodle craze (such as Daikokuya, the legendary Little Tokyo ramen shack, which for many years was the only game in town and is located right next door to Monzo)."
Takeaway: 3 stars (very good). Monzo is delivering very high quality udon, and also the best expression around of the comfort and fun of Japanese/Italian cooking.
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