Simply Delicious Udon at Marugame Monzo

If you’ve been living under a rock this past month, then let me tell you something: the long drive to the south bay for handmade udon is now obsolete.  Newly opened next to the always crowded Daikokuya in Little Tokyo is a small restaurant called Marugame Monzo that will satisfy your chewy Japanese noodle  needs.

This guy knows noodles.

Being in a noodle purist mood, I ordered from the more traditional side of the menu.  The bukkake udon may have a chuckle-worthy name, but don’t let that scare you away.  It’s one of my favorite ways to have these cold noodles. The freshly made noodles are topped with grated radish, a healthy ladle of chopped green onions, crispy bits of tempura batter, optional grated radish, plenty of shaved bonito, and a small container of soy-based sauce.  Drizzle the sauce over the noodles according to your own judgement, sprinkle in some Togarashi, and let the slurping begin.

Bukkake udon from Marugame Monzo hit the spot.

The noodles were of a satisfying consistency with the perfect balance of just the right amount of chew and smoothness.  It’s impressive how uniform each noodle’s thickness is after watching the noodle master roll out the stiff dough by hand.  The seats at the bar are the best in the house because you get to watch the noodles get made right in front of you. Considering the noodle master is rolling out the dough every ten minutes or so, there’s no doubt that the ones you’re slurping up from the bowl are fresh.

Because I was extra hungry, I also ordered a side of eggplant tempura and what they called a soft-boiled egg. The tempura was hot right out of the fryer and while I would consider the egg more of a hard-boiled egg, it was still decent.

Will's plain udon with udon-yu from Marugame Monzo

There may not be anything clearly vegan on the menu, but Will was able to order just the plain udon with noodle-cooking water.  It came with grated radish, green onion, and ginger.  They even included an empty dipping cup for him to make a sauce in.  I suggested he make a sauce with the table soy sauce, grated radish, green onion, and a few spoonfuls of the starchy udon cooking water.  That seemed to do the trick.

It’s great to see this new addition to the Little Tokyo neighborhood.  Daikokuya has already been losing its luster for me, but now I have another excuse to visit the area.  I’m curious to try their more fusion dishes like the uni cream one, but when it’s not something like 90F outside.

Marugame Monzo
329 E. 1st St.
Los Angeles, California 90012
(213) 346-9762

Soba Sojibo (Sawtelle)

Soba at sojibo on Sawtelle. Not bad, but not ichimian.zaru ten soba

I’m always trying to find soba as good as The One I had in some random suburb of Tokyo made by a Japanese rastafarian who also brewed a mean cup of joe. Soba Sojibo’s soba was not that, but it was decent and better than your run of the mill soba ordered at a non-soba Japanese restaurant.  My favorite part was the soba-yu at the end of the meal. The dipping sauce tasted so good after pouring in the soba-yu.  The octopus wasabi small bite (and it is a very small bite) was pretty good as well.

 

Soba Sojibo
2006 Sawtelle Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025

Kinoko & Kaiware Spaghetti

I saw that some of my friends had visited Curry House in Monterey Park and while I was browsing their menu, the kinoko and kaiware (mushrooms and radish sprouts) spaghetti caught my eye. It was one of the few vegetarian dishes on the menu and then I remembered that my friend Yuko made it for us when we had dinner at her house a few years ago.

mushroom spaghetti and radish soup

The dish is flavorful and satisfying, but also quick and easy to make — the perfect combination. I sauteed sliced Japanese chives, which are between a big green onion and a leek, in olive oil and lots of black pepper, then added in two sliced shiitakes (dried and reconstituted) and a sliced maitake. The trick is to make sure there’s enough oil in the pan that the mushrooms don’t dry up. Let that slowly cook on a low heat while the pasta is being cooked.

When the spaghetti is still undercooked (only a little of the white is showing when you bite into it), drain it into the pan with the mushrooms and chive/leeks. Mix together a few tablespoons of soy sauce and about half as much mirin, then pour that onto the noodles. Pour in a ladle full of pasta water, and then mix together on low heat. The pasta should absorb the water/soy-sauce/oil mixture and finish cooking. If it gets too dry, put in more pasta water.

The dish is done when the pasta is to your desired done-ness. Top with some grated radish, shredded toasted seaweed, and lots of radish sprouts.

I also made a simple radish soup to go along with the noodles. The soup was nothing but chopped up radish, the greens, water, and the mushroom soaking liquid from the dried shiitake. The radish and greens gives the soup a mustardy, almost spicy taste, which balances out the earthiness of the mushroom liquid.

Will declared this dish “I would order this at a restaurant” although he also added “but only a fusion restaurant” after, so I’m not sure if that’s high praise or not.