Ramen has reigned supreme in NYC for some time now, but another Japanese noodle is making a serious play for attention. That would be udon — a type of fat, springy pasta formed from wheat flour — and thanks to the first U.S. outpost of TsuruTonTan, it’s finally getting its well-deserved moment in the sun.
Originally launched 30 years ago in Japan, more than a dozen offshoots of TsuruTonTan currently exist overseas; serving over 400 udon-based recipes between them. And with their recently opened debut in New York — situated in the seminal, multi-level, vacated Union Square Café space — they have more than enough space to branch out even further; offering between 30-40 noodle options in that location alone.
Delivered in tight, artful coils in glazed, handcrafted bowls, and lapped with dashi stock distilled from bonito and kombu kelp, sourced from specific regions throughout Japan, the housemade udon is assembled under various categories on the menu. “Ever Popular” includes the TsuruTonTan Deluxe with tempura, short rib and egg, or a Sizzling Sukiyaki stir fry with beef, vegetables and sweet soy, while “Curry & Crème” runs the gamut from Pork Katsu to Truffled Mushroom to Wagyu Shabu, deposited in a dairy-thickened broth. And “Cold Noodle” is an ideal answer to our drawn-out Indian summer, featuring Zaru Udon (which gets dipped, like soba), Crispy Chicken Udon, and Lime Oroshi Udon; spiked with citrus and grated daikon and a chilled, soy-based broth.
Certain dishes are further denoted as “Recommended,” and are the primary reason that, ever since its early September launch, all four floors of the 5,400-square foot restaurant have remained consistently filled. These are the extravagant items — there’s an Uni Udon in the cold section, which boasts lobes of urchin in the dashi sauce, with a few more arrayed on top, as well as Mentaiko Caviar Udon, Tsuruton Crème Deluxe, and Mentaiko Caviar Crème; where shimmering red particles of cod roe hug each individual noodle strand like sequins.
Ramen may reliably be more popular, but it’s never been this luxe.
21 E 16th St