Does the debate over the authenticiy of ramen, and the finer points of the ramen philosophy, leave you cold, or even strike you as a bit twee? Are you tired of waiting in line to pay $20 for a bowl of noodles? Can you actually say you give a shit if a pig foot, in the southern Japanese style, has passed through the noodle broth? (Or, alternately, do you prefer your glue in a jar on your desk instead of in your noodles?)
If you can say yes to any of these burning questions, then Congratulations! You are ready for a cheap steaming bowl of udon, a noodle that I can guarantee the Japanese don’t give a damn about. What’s more, these noodles–which look like fat, limpid worms–don’t come from China originally, but were invited in Japan. How cool is that?
As recently revealed in that indispensible guide for mid-island midday eaters, Midtown Lunch, a new branch of Udon West has opened east of Grand Central, in the same slapdash manner–the signs seem poorly affixed to the facade, a menu on a tarpaulin has been hung over the window–as the branch founded a year ago on St. Marks, which didn’t even have a phone number when it opened.
The midtown branch is more commodious, with two rooms, a long counter, and a coat rack. Bowls of simiple noodles in a broth of no particular distinction run $7.50, but here’s an economizing suggestion: Combinations of a bowl of noodles and another luncheon dish run $12.50, a humongous lunch that could be shared by two people.
A bowl of katsudon, a bowl of udon, some yellow daikon pickles, and a heaplet of mountain vegetables–all for $12.50
Other delicious dishes that Japanese probably don’t really care about, but are willing to eat on the run, include katsudon, chicken cutlet curry, salmon teriyaki, and shrimp tempura. Mix and match on a menu that never strays above $12.50, and the vigorous athletic cooks in their jaunty black caps provide a perfect floorshow. 150 East 46th Street, 212-922-9677
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 14, 2009