Maruka is hard to miss, and not only because of the handsome white noren curtain spelling out ‘udon’ that marks the entrance; there's practically always a queue in front of this Jinbocho joint, and for very good reason. Join the line and you’ll soon be handed a simple menu packed with orthodox Kagawa-style udon options, along with quite a few variations on classics like kake udon (served in broth) and kama-tama (noodles mixed with a raw egg, no soup) – most of them priced under ¥500 for a standard-sized serving.
Your order will be taken before you even step onto the spartan premises, where long communal tables and a diverse bunch of slurpers – salarymen, students, retirees – hunched over their bowls combine for a wonderfully casual atmosphere. Ravenously hungry, we were more than happy to have our mid-size dish (at a mere ¥60, how could we not upgrade?) arrive less than three minutes after grabbing one of the metal stools and taking a seat next to a bunch of college kids noisily working on their noodles.
And what about the taste? Absolutely superb: the chewy (but not too chewy) and firm wheat noodles are complemented by a light, gentle broth that’s as good as any we’ve had in Tokyo, while the egg covering the kama-tama is super-fresh and delicately moreish. While the standard version should satisfy most slurpers, true egg connoisseurs can opt for the Kama-Tama Jiro (¥540), a luxury option made with branded ova flown in straight from Shikoku. And don’t forget the side menu, headed by an almost dangerously juicy kashiwaten (chicken tempura, ¥230).
In terms of value for money, the udon at Maruka stands right at the top of Tokyo’s culinary Olympus. You’ll have a real tough time finding a more satisfying 'one coin' meal – just note that the shop shuts its doors as soon as the day’s noodle batch runs out, which can be several hours before the listed closing time. You’ll also want to know that taking photos is frowned upon, and that it’s considered poor etiquette to linger too long after finishing your bowl. After all, quick turnover is what keeps that queue manageable.
|Venue name:||Maruka Udon|
3-16-1 Kanda-Ogawamachi, Chiyoda-ku
|Opening hours:||Mon-Fri 11am-7.30pm, Sat 11am-2.30pm / closed Sun & hols|
|Transport:||Jinbocho Station (Shinjuku, Mita, Hanzomon lines), exit A5; Ochanomizu Station (Chuo, Sobu lines), Ochanomizubashi exit|