It’s getting chilly in Los Angeles. The temperature was a bone chilling low of 61 degrees today. I even had to wear a jacket for part of the day. 😂 So on this cool “autumn” day, I was in the mood for something hot for lunch to warm me up. Thankfully, I knew just the place to go!
Marugame Udon is a fast-casual Japanese chain, and they recently opened a location in Sawtelle, a neighborhood in the Westside that is a hub for Japanese American restaurants and retail and other ethnic food and shops. (Sawtelle is also referred to as Japantown, as well as Little Osaka.) Marugame Udon is quick serve — cafeteria style — and specializes in udon and tempura. Udon is a wheat noodle served in broth (most of the time), and Marugame offers several different types of udon — ranging from a plain udon in simple broth to a limited quantity Tonkotsu udon with spicy pork. They also have a wide variety of tempura, so after you order your udon, you take your food tray and load it up with as much tempura as you want.
The first time I came to Marugame, I ordered the Nikutama Udon (pictured below), which came with sweet shredded beef and a poached egg. Today, because I was there a little early, I ordered the Tonkotsu Udon. I’ve heard that it sells out rather quickly, so I was lucky to snag a bowl for lunch before they ran out (pictured above). Tonkotsu is a milky broth made with pork bone; and Marugame’s Tonkotsu Udon had slices of roasted pork, a scoop of spicy ground pork, and a soft-boiled egg. There’s a “condiment” bar where you can add toppings to your udon, so I loaded mine up with cilantro, green onions, tempura crisps, and an extra drizzle of sweet Tonkotsu sauce.
The Tonkotsu Udon was mildly spicy, and the ground pork and soft boiled egg added to the richness of the broth. The udon noodles were perfectly soft and slurpy, but the extra tempura “crispies” I added to the udon soup gave it crunch and texture. (Yes, at the condiment bar there is a pan of crispy tempura bits that you can sprinkle on your food!)
And because I can’t help myself, I also added three pieces of tempura to my tray: chicken, shrimp, and zucchini.
The food is really good, but perhaps the best part about eating at Marugame Udon is that it is so inexpensive. The prices are a bit ridiculous because you can get a “regular” sized bowl of udon — which is actually a huge bowl of udon — for as little as $4.50. The Tonkotsu is a bit of splurge at $8.50, but totally worth it. The pieces of tempura range in price, starting at $1.00 each.
Udon and tempura are all you need for a filling meal, and Marugame Udon is the perfect Japanese fast food restaurant. No frills, self-serve (but organized), and fast moving — with good prices, lots of variety, and dishes packed with flavor!