Udon Sashimi

The choices we make in life define who we are. Your friends may not admit it, but when you choose mint chocolate chip ice-cream (and bravo by the way), they’re scribbling a couple of lines about you in their mental scrapbook. When you leave your iPod on your workmate’s car, they’re either nodding along or guffawing as they cycle through your albums before bothering to call and tell you they’ve found it. As a wise man once said, “books, records, films; these things matter.” And noodles, my Asia-loving friends, are no exception. Do you like ramen or udon? Udon or soba? When you take a trip to soba town, to you eat them steaming hot or cold and dunked in mentsuyu dipping oil? If you could only eat one kind of noodle for the rest of your life, which would it be?

For many, ramen encapsulates the true spirit of eastern fast food: rich soups, tons of ingredients and piles of noodles just begging to be slurped up with as much vigor and lip-smacking as is humanly possible. Soba — for this writer at least — can hold its own as a fast food, but is also equally at home in a Japanese-style ryokan hotel, enjoyed while overlooking a beautifully well-kept garden or gravel paths raked by monks that very morning. Udon, meanwhile, is the noodle family’s hearty, no-nonsense big brother. Thicker, heavier and much trickier to handle with chopsticks, wheat-flour udon is perhaps the plainest of its noodle brethren, but works fantastically well with strongly flavoured dishes like kimchi and even Japanese-style curry, positively sucking up the flavour of whatever surrounds it.

Shinjuku’s Sururi Udon Dining, though, is breaking all the rules by adding “sashimi udon” to its menu; thin strips of pure, unadulterated udon intended to be enjoyed on its own or with just the tiniest dollop of soy sauce, much like traditional sashimi. Could Japan’s plainest, simplest noodles really be on the verge of becoming a gourmet dish? We sent our reporter Yoshio to find out.

Just a short walk from Shinjuku station,  Sururi Udon Dining (or “するり UDON DINING” to use its official Japanese name) is living proof that sashimi extends far beyond just thin slices of raw fish or meat.

After hearing great things online, Yoshio arrived at the restaurant last weekend to see whether strips of flat udon could really be all that.

udon menu 1

  • Udon Sashimi: it really does exist

Tucked away on the reverse side of Sururi Udon’s menu along with the house specials, Yoshio spotted the hotly rumoured dish. For something that people have been heralding as gourmet dining, its 700 yen (US$7) price certainly remained faithful to its humble noodle roots, making it the cheapest special on the menu. Excited to finally try the dish for himself, our man ordered up a plate and readied his camera.

Udon Sashimi ichimai

  • The taste test

Just a few minutes later, the genre-crossing dish arrived. Elegantly laid out on a faux bamboo plate and accompanied by spring onions, a circle of radish and a blob of wasabi, the dish certainly looked the part. Wanting to experience nothing but the special noodles’ flavour, Yoshio teased a single strip away from the pack and slid it into his mouth. Satisfying chewy, with just a hint of salt, the noodles put a big smile on his face. But then… “I know this flavour!” thought Yoshio. “This… this is kishimen!”

Well traveled and with a passion for food, Yoshio’s brain had flicked through his cerebral filing cabinets with the speed and dexterity of a high-heeled Mad Men secretary. The noodles tasted fantastic, but weren’t they extremely similar to the flat udon noodles that Aichi Prefecture is famous for!?

udon sashimi dip

  • Soy me up!

Adding a little soy sauce to his side dish, Yoshio teased a second slice of noodle sashimi with the dark brown liquid and a few slithers of spring onion and Japanese ginger. The addition of these traditional  sashimi condiments, however, left our reporter quite perplexed. “Whether it’s just my palate I don’t know, but they just didn’t seem to match,” he commented. Of course, no fish or meat sashimi dish would be complete without its side dishes or soy sauce to dip in, but to Yoshio the coupling of plain noodles with dipping sauce ordinarily reserved for things like raw tuna or horse meat just felt odd. This, he thought, could really make or break udon sashimi…

  • Conclusion

“Eat it without the condiments,” Yoshio affirmed when he arrived back at the office. The noodles by no means failed to satisfy, but if you’re thinking about trying this interesting take on sashimi, our man told us, it might be worth seeking out some Aichi Prefecture-style kishimen udon at your supermarket first. “Boil some up then cut it into bite-sized pieces,” Yoshio advises. If this simple dish works for you, you’ll almost definitely get a kick out of Tokyo’s newest take on an age-old noodle staple.

Is anyone else suddenly really, really hungry?

Shop Info

Address: Tokyo-to, Shinjuku-ku,Kabuki-cho 1-2-9 Best Western Shinjuku Astina Hotel Tokyo, 2F

Opening Hours: Mon-Sat Lunchtime: 11:30-15:00. Dinner 17:00-08:00 (Sunday/Public Holidays Lunch 11:30-15:00 Dinner 17:00-23:00)

▼ The entrance to Sururi Udon

udon restaurant

▼ And the shop card, complete with a handy map.

udon sashimi meishi

▼ It certainly looks the part!

Udon Sashimi Udon Sashimi close up

Udon Sashimi ichimai 2

▼ He may not be the biggest guy, but Yoshio can still put it away. This curry udon was his “dessert” after the udon sashimi’s delicate entrée.

curry udon too

udon restaurant counter
[ Read in Japanese ]