Shinbashi Tsurumaru Udon 新橋つるまる饂飩

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Tsurumaru is a chain of udon restaurants that I love when I need to grab a quick bite. I find myself often going to the Shinbashi branch as they are open early in the morning, from 7 a.m. It’s a great spot for a quick meal anytime of the day.

The flour for the udon noodles is from Japan. Pre-cooked noodles are boiled after each order is placed and have a nice texture and flavor. The dashi used for the broth includes katsuo (skipjack tuna), saba (Pacific mackerel), and niboshi (dried sardines). It is a delicate broth that is rich in umami.

The basic bowl of noodles is only 200 JPY. There are many types of tempura to use as toppings. I love this vegetable kakiage which is a melange of vegetables fried up in a cake. With my chopsticks I break it up and take a bit with the noodles.

As a standing restaurant there are no chairs. It takes a little while getting used to standing and slurping. Once the bowl cools down you can pick it up and slurp some of the broth. It’s a fun and very local experience.

Tsurumaru つるまる饂飩

Minato-ku, Shinbashi 1-8-6 港区新橋1-8-6

http://www.tsuru-maru.jp/

Other branches include:

港区虎ノ門2-4-1    Minato-ku, Toranomon 2-4-1

渋谷区恵比寿南1-1-12  Shibuya-ku, Ebisu-Minami 1-1-12

渋谷区代々木2-11-12  Shibuya-ku, Yoyogi 2-11-12 (near Shinjuku station)

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Nobu Tokyo

Nobu Signature Roll

Nobu Signature Roll

I remember my first visit to Nobu, in New York City, a long time ago. The restaurant was buzzing. The miso cod was better than I imagined it could be, especially after reading about the dish for so long. The table next to me was a film crew from Tokyo making a commercial for Dunkin Doughnuts Japan and we started chatting. I got a side job for the next two days as an assistant for the crew. It was all so exciting, the great food, making new Japanese friends, and the energy that comes from a busy restaurant.

Nobu restaurants appeal to a large audience and for good reason. Nobu Tokyo is located just next to the Okura Hotel. Walking in I felt like I was back in Manhattan. Many of the staff speak English, the restaurant floor is quite big, especially for Tokyo, and there were a lot of non-Japanese diners. The restaurant was quite busy at 12:30 on a weekday in early April. I came to meet a girlfriend who works nearby and she often comes here for lunch. The lunch menu is big, there is something for everyone, and there is even an English menu. I ordered the Nobu house special roll and handmade soba combination lunch (2,400 JPY).

I had the pleasure of helping to translate Nobu: The Sushi Cookbook from Japanese to English. Many of the recipes are now a part of our repertoire, like pressed sushi and miso soup with fresh tomatoes. Even the miso cod, a traditional Japanese dish, is something we often make at home. I finally had the chance to try his signature roll, which is covered with a thin sheet of daikon, adding a crispy crunch to norimaki roll. The stuffings included creamy avocado, crunchy tobiko (flying fish roe), and sashimi. I absolutely loved this addition of the daikon, which is Nobu’s creation. Nobu is brilliant in my mind and this just confirmed that for me.

Nobu soba

Nobu soba

The soba is served cold with a dipping sauce. Towards the end of the meal the kitchen sends out some soba-yu, the hot water that the soba is made with. That is poured into the dipping sauce and then drunk.

The table next to me was having the lunch box with miso soup (3,400 JPY) that looked nice and included a variety of hot dishes and sushi. I was curious to try the Stone Oven Vegetable Plate. The Japanese menu said kisetsu yasai, or seasonal vegetables. I asked my server what the seasonal vegetables were for this dish as it is spring and many of my favorite vegetables are in season. But his reply was standard vegetables like broccoli, carrots, and bell peppers. Glad I went with his signature roll which was a revelation.

I had a hard time finding the restaurant as signage is minimal. Lunch at Nobu is not cheap. If you have not experienced a meal at Nobu, it is nice to have once in your life. His cuisine and influence has brought Japanese food to the masses.

Nobu Tokyo

Minato-ku, Toranomon 4-1-28

港区虎ノ門4-1-28

03-5733-0070

http://www.noburestaurants.com/tokyo/experience-2/

Tsurumaru Udon in Toranomon つるまる饂飩 虎ノ門店

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A hot bowl of thick and chewy flour udon noodles hits the spot any time of day. Starting the day with fast food udon is something I could get used to. Good thing there is not one of these shops in my neighborhood. The standard bowl of noodles with hot broth is only 262 JPY. It’s topped with tenkasu, tempura bits and pieces that are in a bucket next to where you pick up your noodles. I splurged an extra 105 JPY and got the chikuwa tempura, a grilled fish cake that is battered and deep-fried. The broth is hot, so sip until it cools down. The smoky fish broth is light and if I weren’t in a hurry, I would have lingered over it and probably would have drunk most of it up.

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These fast-food udon shops are throughout Tokyo and are a bargain, any time of day. This shop, Tsurumaru, is brightly lit and there is a large communal table in the middle of the shop and several counters that face the wall. Most of the customers are solo diners and the meals are fast.

The menu is simple. Pick a bowl of udon from the pictures on the wall. Some bowls will come with meat or a raw egg. And, if you want, top up the bowl wit h some tempura vegetables or seafood. You’ll also find rice balls, that but seems a bit much after having a bowl of noodles, doesn’t it?

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If you are visiting Japan and looking for a quick meal, this is one of my recommendations. Save McDonald’s for when you are back home.

Tsurumaru Udon Toranomon-ten

Minato-ku, Toranomon 2-4-1

03-3504-0023

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