Thursday, November 7, 2013

First course: Marukame Udon moves into Chinatown

 Nadine Kam photos
At the new Marukame Udon Downtown branch, one of the options is Spicy Udon. Sides are sold by the piece, and shown here are sweet potato, shrimp tempura underneath the potato, and signature Onion Bomb.

For two years, Marukame Udon has been drawing visitors to its Kuhio location, and now, a second Downtown aims to lure in the office pool, for quick, cafeteria-style noodles.

A grand opening took place Nov. 4, with guests maneuvering through a short maze to get inside because the shop was still boarded up.

Inside, Teridoll USA Corp./Marukame Udon manager Aaron Yamamoto and President Ken'ya Shiimura welcomed guests with a traditional sake barrel breaking ceremony, and as the hammered wood came flying toward me, I was thinking I might be standing in the wrong spot. But, it turned out to be the right spot, the start of the line for bowls of udon and sides.

At the start of the line, the noodles are laid out in front of you. Pick your broth and toppings before moving on to tempura, musubi and salad selections. The line moves quickly as long as people can make up their minds before reaching the counter, and speed will be one of the key factors in the restaurant's success with the downtown lunch crowd.
The new Murakame Udon is at 1104 Fort Street Mall, open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays, with a take-out window on Hotel Street open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays. Marukame Udon is also at 2310 Kuhio Ave.

 Teridoll USA Corp./Marukame Udon manager Aaron Yamamoto, left, and President Ken'ya Shiimura.

Cracking open the sake barrel in celebration of the opening.

Ordering is done in assembly line fashion. First, pick up your noodles, choose your broth and toppings of green onion and tempura crumbs. It's $2 extra for sweet beef, shabu pork or teri chicken.

Move on to the fried offerings. Here, asparagus, potato croquette and eggplant. The asparagus was woody at the stem end. Hope that gets fixed.

Onion ring lovers will love the Onion Bomb, and the price is right, at $1.50.

Can't have udon without shrimp tempura.

Musubi and tossed salads are also options.

The line forms just beyond the door and moves quickly as long as customers are decisive. Don't be the slug that holds up the line during the Downtown lunch hour.

The menu board.

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