The LA Internets is all gaga for Marugame Monzo, but I have not bothered. Why? I’m team Tsurumaru.

Tsurumaru Udon Little Tokyo

Both Tsurumaru and Marugame are Hawaii transplants. Both use fresh cut noodles, which, by the way, have been rather difficult to find in Los Angeles, unlike a good bowl of Chinese hand pulled noodles. Marugame has a fancier transparent kitchen directly in front of the noodle bar. Most say those seats in front of the noodle bar are the best. Personally, watching these Japanese men cut noodle (why are there no women?) only invokes the geriaric business operator in me — all I can think of is they’re going to sue the restaurant for repetitive injury and carpal tunnel syndrome. The only difference between the two Little Tokyo operations boils down to uni and parking. I don’t need uni in my udon, but I need parking to get to said udon.

So, like I said, team Tsurumaru:
Tsuramaru bukkake udon

$4.50 for a medium bowl of splashing udon, $5.50 for a large. $1 to $2 for tempura add-ons sitting under the heat lamp. The entire QSR set-up is rather spartan, but the spirit of the udon house just jives with me so well: quality ethnic foods with no MSG, made from traditional methods, made affordable thanks to the monstrosities of the US food system, made quick thanks to Japanese efficiency. It’s mostly efficient unless you want the cold noodles. Since all noodles are freshly cooked, cooling the noodles take repeated shocking in a separate cold water bath. It’s the quick service restaurant I prefer over any Subway; Bourdain would approve of this as “Asian Fast Food”, or, fast food done right.

One final unimportant note: the chopsticks boxes are Chinese. I’m OK with the inauthenticity as long as it means the restaurant was able to keep their opening costs down, because I’m not paying $10 for a few strands of wheat noodles topped with a nugget of uni. Not doing it. It’s also good to see a new Japanese restaurant opening on the third floor of the Korean-Little Tokyo plaza. Fight the power that be, you nisseis and isseis.

Tsurumaru Udon Honpo

Tsurumaru Udon on Urbanspoon



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  • I’ve been curious about Tsurumaru for a while (and not just ’cause I snickered like a preteen boy at their bukkake udon poster out front: )

    Sidenote: I was hoping that new bowling alley entertainment complex would be more happening though, but it just looks like a depressed shell of Round 1.

  • sinosoul

    No one wants to go bowling in a mall? That structure just reminds me too much for an actual anonymous Asian mall. Way too authentic. I don’t know how Chynna lounge stays open.

  • Johnny Lee

    I tend to agree with a lot of what you say but Tsurumaru was underwhelming. Been to Monzo several times and I’ll keep going back because udon isn’t something I crave on a regular basis so when I want it I’d rather have a good one.

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