Marugame Monzo sits coolly in the shadow of the day’s completed lunch rush in LittleTokyo. The servers bob and weave energetically through the handful of tables remaining, running off the energy left in the wake of feeding a cult-following of noodle aficionados. The remaining few sit with their faces fixed closely to their steaming bowls, slurping away with ease at the pillowy, hand-made udon noodles, filling their stomachs with warm content.
Monzo’s udon is derived from a recipe that has remained the same through the ages: a simple dough of wheat, salt, water, and a set of extremely quick reflexes. They are made-to-order behind a glass wall placed as the backdrop for the restaurant, encasing the noodle masters at work in an honest and minimal display of pure artistry; the repetition of stretching, rolling, folding, and precisely cutting the wheat dough is rhythmic, almost spellbinding, with each strand of noodle quivering at a calculated pulse under the knife that flies across the flour-dusted surface.
The restaurant derives its name from Marugame, a town in the Kagawa region in Japan where udon is the traditional noodle. Customarily, the skill of making udon was passed down to women before they were married, but now these wheat noodles have amassed a tutelage that extends far beyond culinary inheritance.
Traditionally, the simplest preparation is the kake udon, which is made of a hot Kakeiru broth of dashi, soy sauce, and mirin, then finished with floating isles of thinly sliced scallions and fried tempura bits. Monzo could easily stand as a top contender in the udon game with this dish, solely based on their ability to craft exceptional noodles. However, the cult-status of this restaurant arrived with the enthusiasm surrounding their fusion dishes—from the udon tossed in a sea urchin cream sauce to the udon carbonara, the modern twist is a crowd-pleaser.
Marugame Monzo’s approach to udon hangs deliciously in the balance between the old and new; their tireless dedication is an echo of the generations before them, and the creative spirit infuses a modern dexterity in their dishes that simply cannot be matched.