Last week, during our Japanese food shopping, we came across an add for Ichiryo, a new udon restaurant due to open in New Oxford Street.
The name was a giveaway , Ichiryu shares ownership with Shoryu (a successful chain of restaurants serving Hakata ramen to regular customers in London since November 2012) but there was a puzzling fact: although Hakata is a well known (tried and tested) destination for ramen lovers, if/when anyone wants udon in Japan, they travel to Shikoku, the udon island, to either Marugame or Takamatsu, not to Hakata. What will Hakata udon be like? we wondered
What will Hakata udon be like? we wondered
The soft launch happened over the weekend with a half-price menu. And by the time we left the house we sort of knew that if yesterday’s queue was something to go by, we were up for a lovely surprise.
The restaurant opened at 12 pm and we were there on time. Despite this, the restaurant filled up before we even crossed the threshold and the takeaway queue was also considerable. Luckily there was a system in place and we were regularly kept up to date with progress. In the end, and despite the growing pains that are typical of a new opening,we were seated and ordering in 15 minutes. Everyone around us was clearly enjoying their meals.
The menu is simple yet perfectly formed. When compared with Koya Bar, London’s first udon restaurant in Soho, it is a much shorter selection but also a more affordable one.
I am not very keen in hot noodle soups because eating them makes me self-conscious and requires my full concentration to avoid burning my lips, so every time I have a choice, I choose cold noodles. This is why, today, I embraced a dish that combined cold noodles with my favourite ontama (onsen tamago) a soft egg that is simply delicious.
It was fantastic. The soup was light and authentic tasting, the freshly made udon firm and chewy, the egg deep in flavour but clean and the chips of tempura (so Japanese) trully crispy and light.
My husband, however, after we had a chat with the Japanese gentleman who welcomed us by the door, reconfirmed his decision to go for his favourite Tonkotsu Udon .
The pork, in particular, was very well cooked, melt in the mouth and delicious. The soup too was thick and rich but not greasy. It is fair to say that he really enjoyed it.
As any good Japanese he had, of course, to order some tempura as well. His choice was Kakiage, a tempura mix of vegetable strips which he tends to make at home with any vegetable leftovers he finds in the fridge. This too was very nice.
(Since we were sitting by the tempura station, I can tell you that the cod tempura looked really good and that I have the feeling that he will be ordering it next time )
Worth noting that the place was full of Japanese women having lunch in groups, and so one can safely say that even the most everyday life of Japanese traditions are alive and well in this new arrival to London’s West End.
Worth noting too that there was a regret in my part: I love green tea and when I saw matcha in the menu, despite the fact that breaks all the rules, I decided to taste it… next time, I will stick to water. (I would recommend you had some matcha with Japanese sweets from Minamoto Kichoan instead)
Ps. Although my husband’s cloudy sake from Kyoto was good, it was a bit sweet for me. I would however suggest that it might be a good match for the fish tempura, although to me, it would make more sense to order a semi dry one instead… if you must)
Photographyby Cristina Lanz-Azcarate
Text by Cristina Lanz-Azcarate
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