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A rooms filled with people eating noodles.
Inside the dining room at Sanuki Udon.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

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With Noodles Made to Order, a Build-Your-Own Udon Shop Opens Near NYU

Sanuki Udon makes noodles in an open kitchen

Sanuki Udon looks like a franchise operation, but it’s the first of its kind in New York. The new restaurant allows customers to assemble bowls of noodles in an entertaining way to make a full meal that ends up costing around $25. This form of merchandising udon is common in Japan, and California, Texas, and Hawaii already have cafes selling the noodles this way, too.

Sanuki Udon opened a few days ago right on the NYU campus (yes, the landlord is NYU), at 31 W. Fourth Street, at Greene Street. The name refers to a style of udon, but also to a temple in Japan’s Kagawa Prefecture, where a Buddhist monk supposedly brought the wheat noodles from China 1,200 years ago.

White clad employees line up behind a counter, adding things to bowls of noodles.
The assembly line at Sanuki Udon.

Here’s how it works: File in the front door and immediately find a 50-foot-long assembly line staffed by employees all in white. Pick up a tray and a plate, then begin sliding leftward. Choose one of just over a dozen udon bowls, some hot, some cold, priced from $9 for noodles in a simple bonito broth to $17 for udon with a breaded pork cutlet in a dense curry gravy.

As you make a selection, you can see off to the right the dough being formed into balls and pushed into a machine that extrudes it into sheets, then cuts it into uniform bulbous strands. Yes, the noodles are supremely fresh.

Two bowls are being tended too, one with beef the other with fried chicken.
Assembling the bowls.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Next, you reach the station where your basic bowl is assembled, as a blur of noodles is extracted from their boiling bath, where they have been dunked for a mere 30 seconds; then broth, main ingredients, and supporting players are added. I picked beef udon ($16), which featured a sweet brown broth and sheets of beef, finished with dollops of pickled ginger and scallions. The bowl is placed on the tray, but the white plate is still empty. Now comes the fun part: tempura.

Slide your tray past the tempura shrimp ($3.25), which proves a little skinnier and soggier than it could be; a crescent of rather wonderful Japanese orange squash ($2.25); and some more-than-acceptable fried chicken nuggets tasting of soy, scallions, and sugar ($4.25). Be careful! These charges add up. Other choices include fish cake, eggplant, and chrysanthemum fronds. Reach the end of the line and pay at the register. As you look up you’ll see a very distinctive mural of Sanford White’s Washington Square Arch with a bowl of udon in front of it, noodles drawn skyward with chopsticks.

A bowl with beef wadded in it and a side plate with tempura.
A bowl of udon next to tempura shrimp and chicken nuggets.
Robert Sietsema/Eater NY

Now it’s time to find seating in what might be a very crowded dining room. My advice: Nail down your seating first before visiting the condiments bar. When you return, concentrate on scallions, grated daikon, tempura crumbs, and a small collection of mass produced sauces to squirt into your bowl.

A udon bowl with fried chicken, may, and little salad.
Chicken karaage salad udon.

I also tried another bowl, this one made with cold udon topped with fried chicken. In chicken karaage salad udon ($17), the noodles were amplified with thick mayo, making it like macaroni salad in a deli, and there was very little salad, contrary to the picture at the start of the assembly line. On a warm summer day, it might have been refreshing, but who wants to pay that much for macaroni salad? (You can also get rice bowls.)

But how was the experience in general? Well it’s a chance to meet NYU students, and overall a fun dining experience. The quality of the ingredients — other than the noodles — will not blow you away, but the laser focus on one type of noodle and its tempura build-outs is a worthy addition to the city’s vast collection of noodle parlors.

When we left, we were given a free Sanuki Udon towel. Sanuki is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. for now.

A black towel with Udon scrawled in white on a black background.
My bonus towel.

Sanuki Udon

31 West 4th Street, New York, NY 10012 Visit Website
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