U:Don – a Japanese-noodle shop where the slurping is good
U:Don in the University District is a mecca for lovers of Japanese noodles.
Seattle Times theater critic
4515 University Way N.E., Seattle; 206-453-3788; http://freshudon.com
Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday
Etc: Major credit cards accepted; street parking; no obstacles to access; no alcohol
Sometimes it’s good to do just one thing, but do it really well.
That’s the feeling aficionados of Japanese noodles can come away with after a visit to U:Don Fresh Japanese Noodle Station, a modest eatery in the University District. Udon, the thick wheat-flour noodle usually served in broth or sauce, is the main attraction. In the southern region of Japan where udon was popularized, there are more than 700 udon shops. This is Seattle’s first.
U:Donlooks like a sleek, clean but basic student hangout, with a cafeteria self-service line and a menu focused almost entirely on perfectly cooked Japanese pasta made fresh throughout the day, in full sight of customers. Especially in winter, prime slurping season, these fresh and hearty noodles offer a warming and satisfying repast — at student budget prices.
On the menu:Udon noodles are served hot or cold in bowls of three sizes (the small is filling, the medium and large are very generous), ranging in price ($4.50-$7.50) and offered with a variety of sauces and meat, fish-based or (on request) vegetarian broth. As accompaniments, for dipping into the soup or into a hot soy-based sauce, there is a changing array of tempura (35 cents-$1.99).
What to write home about: The curry udon has a savory, earthy kick. But you can’t go wrong with any of the udon dishes, especially those in broth. And don’t turn down the offer of free scallions and grated ginger, or the tempura flakes you can spoon on yourself.
The tempura is not cooked to order, and may look a bit tired on display. But plunged into hot soup or sauce, it seems fresh and flavorful. Our favorites included a tofu cake stuffed with shrimp, kabocha squash, asparagus and white fish.
What to skip: You can get rice with toppings here, but why? Noodles are the thing.
The setting: Plain, a bit noisy when full, but not unpleasant, with blond wood tables and benches. The service is friendly and informative.
Summing up: Two small bowls of soup ($12.50) plus assorted tempura and a bottle of Japanese oolong tea ($2.49) came to $21.71 without tax and tip.
Misha Berson: email@example.com