TSURUMARU UDON HONPO
ADDRESS: 333 South Alameda Street, Los Angeles, CA 90013
My friend Emily suggested that we go to an udon noodle restaurant in Little Tokyo while we were spending the day hanging out in LA. To me, it sounded like a great idea, since I’ve always been a fan of going to eat ramen, so I was excited to check out how an udon noodle restaurant was like instead.
Tsurumaru Udon Honpo is located inside the Little Tokyo Galleria, up on the third floor. You’ll need to either see if you can get lucky with street parking or go into the parking garage that is adjacent to the galleria itself. We stopped by on a Friday midday, and the place was relatively quiet. Since there wasn’t anyone else in the dining area when we first arrived, we had full choice of any one of the tables.
There’s a pretty large menu mounted above the counter with a whole lot of information on it. Both of us had to take a moment to absorb all of the information before we moved over to the kiosk to begin placing our order. Because there are so many ways you can customize your order, you go through quite a few menus on the computer making all of your selections.
I ended up going with the original dashi broth base and a half order of udon noodles, with added toppings of char siu, scallions, soft boiled egg, tempura flakes, and aburaage (deep-fried tofu pouch). Since I also really enjoy trying out chicken karaage at different places as well, I also threw in an order of those, too.
As you can imagine with us being the only customers there, the food did not take long before it was ready for us to pick up. I underestimated how large the pieces of aburaage were going to be, since they completely obscured the udon while in the bowl. The udon itself, which is handmade fresh in-store every day, tasted good, with that thick consistency you’d expect of the wheat noodles. They also soaked up some of the savory and umami flavors imparted by both the dashi as well as the char siu. I didn’t expect that the aburaage was going to be a little sweet, but it was an interesting flavor contrast nonetheless.
The one thing I probably won’t do in the future, however, is order the tempura flakes as a topping. By the time that it gets served to you, the steam has already turned the once crispy flakes soft, and I wasn’t really looking for that mushy texture to be in the broth while eating the rest of the noodle bowl. As for the chicken karaage itself, it was fried nice and crispy, with not too much batter that it caked the piece of chicken. It was also served with a chili soy dipping sauce, which was a nice hit of spicy and umami flavor to complement each bite.
One thing that did stand out to me, however, was the ratio of price to quantity of food, specifically regarding the udon bowl. With everything that I ended up getting in my bowl, it came out to be $15. I thought that to be a bit on the expensive side, especially considering that it was only a half order. The $5 price of adding the char siu in was just as much as the half order of udon, which I thought was a bit out of proportion.
The experience of getting some freshly-made udon noodles really hit the spot. Given how well they absorb flavor, I think I would end up trying another one of the soup bases next time, like the spicy broth or the curry. The quality of the food tasted great, but just be prepared to spend a few dollars more here. If you’re in the Little Tokyo area and have a craving for some udon, this spot tucked inside the Little Tokyo Galleria should be a place to check out.
Let’s now take a look at the Tsurumaru Udon Honpo Dish Spotlight. Asterisks (*) below mark my recommended dishes.
** Chicken Karaage **
Battered chicken breast pieces, deep-fried. Served with a chili soy dipping sauce.
** Char Siu Udon Bowl **
Handmade udon noodles in a dashi broth, topped with char siu, scallions, soft-boiled egg, aburaage, and tempura flakes.
And finally, here are my rankings for Tsurumaru Udon Honpo:
Food: 4.25 / 5
There is a wide array of choice when it comes to customizing your udon bowl, no doubt about that. The quality of the food was good, and the flavors were rich as well.
Atmosphere: 4.25 / 5
I liked the overarching wood element use within the décor of the dining area, from the tables to the walls and flooring. The mahogany colored tables and chairs contrasted nicely with the lighter colored wood used elsewhere. Lamps and origami also hung from the ceiling as a nice touch as well.
Service: 4 / 5
The only customer-facing interaction we really had was when we picked up our order from the staff once it was ready. Our food, however, did come out in a relatively timely fashion, given that we were the only customers at the time.
Price: 3.75 / 5
The $15 price tag for my half order of udon was the thing that stood out to me after the fact. Perhaps maybe closer to $12 – $13 would have been what I’d consider more in the ballpark for the amount of food that I got.