ZEN SANUKI UDON

Zen Sanuki Udon
With 3 new shops opening this year in the GTA, don’s popularity is clearly on the rise. The thick, bouncy wheat flour noodles have always been one of my favourites. Growing up, a pack of instant udon in some homemade chicken broth was often my go to after school snack. My first trip to Japan (now over a decade ago) only solidified my love for udon. Served in a dashi based broth, under curry or cold with a dipping broth, udon’s versatility creates a multitude of comforting noodle dishes. I visited Zen Sanuki Udon last summer on a scorching hot day and a bowl of their cold udon noodles made the perfect dinner.

Atmosphere: Zen Sanuki Udon is the new restaurant from Chef Seiichi Kashiwabara, of Zen sushi bar in Markham, one of the best loved omakase spots in the GTA. Walking into the noodle shop, the decor was more reminiscent of a sushi restaurant with open kitchen bar seats and modern natural wood decor. I arrived for the first dinner seating on a weeknight, a week after the restaurant opened, and by the time we were leaving, the restaurant was hitting capacity. I would not be surprised if a queue is still common during peak dinner hours today.

Service: I arrived first to the restaurant and was seated by the hostess with a smile. While waiting for my friend, my server brought over water and menus, also with a friendly smile. We both ordered cold noodle dishes, with no appetizers, and our bowls of noodles were ready quickly and concurrently. I noticed that this was not the case for the couple at the table next to us. One bowl of udon was served to the man and the woman looked around furtively for her meal. It was a noticeable gap before her order was ready. A small wrinkle, not unfathomable of a new restaurant, and one that is easily ironed out over time. Based on my own experience alone, the service was great.

Food: The menu at Zen Sanuki was pretty extensive and covered all the varieties of udon dishes I was expecting. There was also a section for donburi, rice bowls, with BBQ eel and sashimi. For the udon dishes, there was also a list of toppings you could add from an onsen egg to sliced week to wakame salad. With the temperature that day being over 30 degrees, my friend and I both decided to go with a cold udon. I opted for the Ikura Oroshi Udon while she had the Niku Bukkake.

My bowl arrived topped with ikura, wakame, tempura bits, slices of fish cake, chopped shiso leaf and green onions. There was a but of cold broth, just enough to keep the noodles moist and add flavour. My friend’s bowl was topped with thin slices of marinated beef, wakame, grated garlic, green onions, two slices of fish cakes and an onsen egg (super soft boiled). The udon texture was chewy and firm and the seasoning mild but delicious. So good and such an authentic bowl. I want to go back and pretty much try ever dish on the menu. Ingredients range from simple and comforting like curry and tempura to decadent and rich like wagyu beef and BBQ eel.

Being a sister restaurant to Zen, there is some sushi on the menu, most noticeably a daily hand roll. On the day of my visit, it was trout and I couldn’t resist adding it to our order. The role was prepared onigiri style, with a plastic wrap separating the rice and seaweed for the diner to assemble just before eating. The quality of the fish was good and for $6, a nice addition.

Overall, dinner at Zen Sanuki Udon was a treat. Excellent quality ingredients and amazing fresh noodles made in house daily.
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