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.
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.
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?
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.