Marugame Udon, Sanuki udon specialty restaurant chain, lands US mainland for the first time
2017-10-26
Marugame Udon, Sanuki udon ...

Marugame Udon, Sanuki udon ...

Marugame Udon, Sanuki udon ...

Marugame Udon, Sanuki udon ...

Marugame Udon, Sanuki udon ...

By Keiko Fukuda

My first encounter with Marugame Udon was in Hawaii. About 5 years ago, I stayed at a hotel across the street from Kuhio Street in Waikiki. I was planning to visit this restaurant during my stay because I knew how popular this restaurant was among the local people by reading a blog of a person who was residing in Hawaii. Every time I looked down from my hotel room window at this restaurant, there was always a long line of people stretching from the front of the restaurant regardless of if it was lunch time or dinner time. I was so determined that I must get in the line myself, and so I did. I experienced the California style udon ordering, in which you pick the kind of basic Udon first, then pick tempura pieces of your choice as toppings. It was fun, and also delicious. I wanted to try a different kind of basic udon with different tempura pieces for the topping next time. Udon is not a new food for a Japanese person like me, but I felt that Marugame Udon was a very refreshing eating experience.

After the experience in Hawaii, I visited one of the numerous Marugame Udon chain restaurants every time I went back to Japan. Then I discovered that you could get the same fun and authentic taste from this cafeteria type restaurant chain equally in both Japan and Hawaii.

Then I started to wonder, “There is one in Hawaii, but why not in LA?” Well, finally, in September of 2017, the very first Marugame Udon on the mainland US opened on Sawtelle Blvd. in West Los Angeles. The Sawtelle area is a highly competitive district for Japanese food businesses. Both sides of Sawtelle Blvd are tightly packed with many Japanese restaurants specialized in sushi, ramen, Japanese style curry, yakitori, tebasaki (chicken wings), etc.

In front of the restaurant, you see the familiar sign for this chain, which is a paper lantern with the name of the company, “Marugame Seimen”, written in Kanji. As soon as you step inside, there is an ordering counter and you see their staff working diligently over the counter. There was a tasting event held right before the grand opening when I went. I ordered “Nikutama (egg and meat) Udon” which is not what I normally order. I ordered a cold udon because it was the season in which you can still feel the warmth of the ending summer. Another unusual thing I did was that I chose clearly too many freshly fried crispy tempura pieces that included chikuwa, squid, chicken, karaage (different from chicken tempura), and asparagus. I just could not help but to keep taking them one after another.

It is such great fun that you can keep taking and putting whatever you want on your tray flowingly. Another big point for somebody like me who tends to be hasty is the fact that the waiting time between ordering and starting to eat disappears, not to mention the appeal of the products that are reasonably priced - the udon is freshly made and cooked, as well as the crispy tempura. After taking some free stuff at the end of the line of food, which are chopped green onions and tenkasu (fried tempura batter crumbs), and taking the tray to your table, you can start your meal immediately. The most important aspect, the taste, did not disappoint me. I was highly satisfied by the quality of the udon as well, but the karaage was quite impressive, too. It was so good, and made me want to know how it was marinated before fried.

My total charge was about $15 with a drink because I took too much tempura, but the cost should be only about $10 if you order a simple regular udon (Kake Udon), and add some tempura, which is very reasonably priced. Besides udon, there are various rice bowls topped with spicy tuna, tuna/avocado, tuna/ikura (salmon roe), etc., which are also prepared quickly in front of you over the counter so you can taste freshly-made meals.

After leaving the restaurant greatly satisfied, I saw rows of people waiting outside of a popular ramen restaurant on the same street. People gather in the Sawtelle district to eat Japanese foods. I bet that you will also be seeing a similar scene in front of Marugame Udon after their grand opening.


讃岐うどん専門店「丸亀製麺」アメリカ本土初上陸

丸亀製麺の初体験はハワイだった。今から5年ほど前、私はワイキキのクヒオ通りを挟んで丸亀製麺の向かい側のホテルに宿泊していた。かねてより、ハワイ在住者のブログを読んで、いかに同店が当地で人気かを知っていたので、滞在中に絶対に食べに行こうと思っていたのだった。

そして、時折、ホテルの部屋から店を見下ろすたび、ランチタイムやディナータイムに関係なく、店の前には長蛇の行列が伸びていた。「これはもう並ばずには食べられないのだ」と覚悟を決めて、私は行列に並んだ。そして、最初にうどんの種類を選び、さらにトッピングの天ぷらを選ぶというカフェテリア方式のうどんを体験した。楽しかった。そして美味しかった。次は違う種類のうどんに違う天ぷらをトッピングしてみたいと思った。うどんは日本人の筆者にとって、決して新しい食べ物ではないのだが、なぜか、丸亀製麺は非常に新鮮な食体験に映った。

その後、日本に帰省するたびに、日本に数あるチェーン店、丸亀製麺に足を運んだ。そして、そのカフェテリア方式の楽しさと本格的な味は、日本でもハワイでも同じだということを知った。

そうなると「なぜハワイにあってロサンゼルスにないのだ」と思うようになってきた。しかし、遂に2017年9月、ウエストロサンゼルスのソーテル通りに米国本土1号店が開店した。ソーテルと言えば、寿司、ラーメン、日本スタイルのカレー、焼き鳥、手羽先といったレストランが通りの両側にびっしりと並ぶ「日本食激選区」。

店の前にはおなじみの「丸亀製麺」と漢字で書かれた提灯が下がっている。店内に入るとすぐそこからうどんを注文するカウンターがあり、カウンター越しにキビキビと働くスタッフの姿が見える。グランドオープニングの直前に開催された試食会のこの日、私はいつもとは違う肉玉うどんをオーダー。まだ残暑が感じられる時期なのでコールドうどんにした。さらに、揚げたてサクサクの天ぷらはちくわ、イカ、鶏肉、唐揚げ(鶏肉の天ぷらとは別商品)、アスパラガスを取った。これはもう明らかに取りすぎだと思ったが、手が伸びてしまったものは仕方ない。

こうして流れるように自分の食べたいものをトレイの上に並べられるのが、大きな魅力。リーズナブルな料金に、打ちたて、茹でたてのうどん、さらにサクサクの天ぷらという商品自体の魅力に加えて、私のようにせっかちな人間には「注文してから食べるまでの待ち時間」が発生しないことも非常に大きい。あとは、無料のネギや天かすを乗せてテーブルに運べば、食事はすぐにスタートできる。

肝心の味はやはり期待を裏切らないものだった。うどんの満足度も高かったが、印象的だったのが唐揚げ。下味をどうやってつけているのか知りたくなるほど、癖になる美味しさだ。

この日は天ぷらを取りすぎてしまったために、料金にするとドリンクも入れて15ドルほど。しかし、普通のかけうどんに天ぷらをプラスしただけだと余裕で10ドル以内に収まる、非常にお得な料金設定だ。うどん以外にスパイシーツナ、ツナアボカド、ツナいくらをはじめとする各種の丼ぶりも揃っている。これもまた目の前でカウンター越しに手早く作ってくれるので、作りたてが味わえる。

大満足で店を出た後、同じ通りの人気ラーメン店の行列が目に入った。こうやって日本食を求めて人はソーテルに集まってくる。グランドオープン後にMARUGAME UDONの店の前にも同じような光景が展開しているにちがいない。



MARUGAMEUDON
2029 Sawtelle Blvd., Los Angeles CA 90025
424-317-2222
http://marugameudon.com/

Sun.-Wed. 11am-11pm
Thu.-Sat. 11am-12am
7 days open


Back