Best udon in Tokyo

Slurp noodles on the cheap at these top Kagawa-style sanuki udon restaurants
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The go-to meal for many a Tokyoite on a limited budget, udon may not have the historical prestige of soba or ramen in the capital, but this thick and chewy noodle has carved out an unshakeable niche for itself since the short-lived noodle craze in the '60s. Although varieties abound, the most popular type of udon is now the thick, flat sanuki from Kagawa, which is widely known as the 'udon prefecture' and is home to more than 800 eateries exclusively focused on sanuki udon. 

We have scoured the city for the very best Kagawa-style udon joints; all these shops uphold the basic tenets of sanuki udon, although many of them have developed their own recipes on the side, expanding their range of noodle dishes to fit the wide variety of tastes in Tokyo. Eat your way through the entire list and find the bowl right for you, or skip straight to our ramen top 20 for a greasier fare.

Best in Tokyo

Restaurants, Udon

Maruka

icon-location-pin Jinbocho

There's practically always a queue in front of this Ochanomizu restaurant serving traditional Kagawa-style noodles. The chewy, firm udon are complemented by a light, well-balanced broth that's as good as any we’ve had in Tokyo, while the egg covering the kama-tama is super-fresh and deliciously moreish. Don’t forget the side dishes as well, particularly the juicy kashiwaten (chicken tempura).

Restaurants, Udon

Nenotsu

icon-location-pin Nezu

After years of travails at Ginza's now-closed Sakata, the owner of this joint opened his own shop on a Nezu backstreet and immediately hit it big: Nenotsu's chewy, elastic noodles and creative menu attract enough patrons for queues to form even on weekdays. We recommend the 'double udon' set, which consists of two ample noodle portions – one cold, one warm – but also like the quirky kama mentai butter, a variation on kamaage udon served with butter and marinated fish roe (mentaiko).

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Restaurants, Udon

Taniya

icon-location-pin Ningyocho

Hailing from the 'udon prefecture' of Kagawa, the friendly Mr Tani operates this smallish but consistently excellent noodle shop in Ningyocho. Upon entering, you won't be able to miss the glass-encased udon-making area, where chefs can be seen pounding the noodles and carefully cutting them up, all by hand of course. The finished product is firm and starchy, going nicely with the additive-free broth and fried-on-order tempura available here.

Restaurants, Udon

Kokuwagata

icon-location-pin Hongo

Have your noodles on the fly at this standing-only eatery in Hongo, where the thick, handmade udon are firm and chewy, the soy sauce is of the finest quality and the servings are ample to say the least. Have fun choosing from the Shikoku-themed menu, which features creations like Ehime-style jakoten wakame (fried fish paste with seaweed) udon and nori tamago shoyu (seaweed, egg and soy sauce) udon from Kochi's Shimanto, or go straight for the top prize (pictured above): Tokushima chicken breast tempura over udon served with soy sauce and sudachi (citrus fruit).

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Restaurants, Japanese

Sumita

icon-location-pin Akabane

Hiding out on a residential street a brisk walk from Akabane Station, this udon joint regularly attracts queues before opening time, as patrons converge on the shop to savour Sumita's signature kashiwa oroshi bukkake. This tongue-twister of a dish consists of slippery noodles topped with lightly flavoured pieces of chicken tempura, plus grated daikon, sesame seeds, nori seaweed and green onion, and makes for a satisfyingly hearty one-bowl meal.

Shin Udon
Photo: Lim Chee Wah
Restaurants, Sanuki udon

Shin

icon-location-pin Yoyogi

This little shop, with six seats at the counter and just two tables, serves freshly made noodles that go down nice and smooth, plus great side dishes like tempura and deep-fried tofu. You should really try their signature 'carbonara udon', where the noodle is topped with grated cheese, a runny soft-boiled egg and a thick slice of bacon tempura, much like its namesake Italian counterpart.

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Restaurants, Udon

Kuranosuke

icon-location-pin Takadanobaba

Employing skills honed in the 'udon prefecture' of Kagawa, the staff at this Takadonababa noodle joint use two kinds of domestic wheat for their dough and form the thick, firm noodles all by hand, every singly day. Both warm and cold broth are available, the two made separately from dried Kagawa sardines and mixed with soy sauce for a strongly aromatic but fresh taste. To start off, go for the simple bukkake udon, served only with spices and broth, before moving on to the Sanuki Tempura, which comes with deep-fried egg, chikuwa fish cake and chicken, or the always popular curry udon. You'll also want to look out for the seasonal specials.

Restaurants, Sanuki udon

Oniyanma

icon-location-pin Gotanda

Get your udon fix early in the morning, really late at night or any time in between at Gotanda's standing-only shrine to noodles. Found right outside the station, this rough-and-ready joint serves up bowls from as low as ¥300, and attracts queues every single day at lunchtime. Once you get in, it might take a while before you feel comfy hovering around the narrow counter, but any tension is quickly swept away once you get a taste of the firm udon and light, fresh broth. The tempura here is always freshly fried, so make sure to order some of the popular chicken variety (toriten) to go with your noodles.

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Restaurants, Udon

Udon Onya

icon-location-pin Gakugei-Daigaku

Only open five days a week during lunchtime, this udon joint close to Gakugei-Daigaku Station in Meguro can be real hard to get into – paying little heed to the listed business hours, the shop often runs out of noodles and closes long before 2pm. Prepare to queue up for a seat inside the small space, but once you get in, you'll be glad you did: the soft, aromatic noodles are served in a powerfully flavoured, sardine-based broth, making for a heavenly combination. The tempura, fried on order, also maintains excellent quality: we recommend the mochi and soft-boiled egg varieties.

Restaurants, Udon

Shikokuya

icon-location-pin Nakano

Serving up Kagawa-style sanuki udon in Nakano since 1962, Shikokuya remains a strong presence on the local noodle scene. Updating its flavours to go with the times, the shop continues to attract patrons with a diverse menu of udon and tempura. First-timers will want to check out the niku-kizami udon, a unique creation served with green onion, meat and aburaage (fried tofu) slices over an ample portion of noodles in a sweet broth.

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Restaurants, Udon

Iwai

icon-location-pin Jujo

Hot, cold or both, whatever way you like it – Jujo's 'udon central' boasts Kagawa-trained chefs and a menu packed with options, including the hiya-atsu mixture with chilled, smooth noodles and piping hot sardine- and seaweed-based broth. Make sure to explore the tempura list: fried to order, the treats range from plus-sized chikuwa (fish cake) to seasonal vegetables and chicken, all of which go nicely with the flavourful broth. Udon always makes for a cheap meal, but Iwai's prices go beyond the standard – we'll take a regular-sized bowl for ¥300 every day of the week and twice on Sundays.

Restaurants, Udon

Arata

icon-location-pin Hachioji

Prepare to wait for your bowl at this traditional udon joint out in Hachioji: the noodles are handmade and boiled to order, making for a supremely firm, chewy texture unrivalled in western Tokyo. Run by a friendly middle-aged couple, Arata is also well known for its excellent tempura, with varieties ranging from chicken to seasonal veg, all freshly fried. Both warm and cold noodle options are available – we recommend going straight for the chilled bukkake udon with tempura, perhaps combined with a side of takikomi gohan (seasoned rice boiled with veg and mushrooms).

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Restaurants, Sanuki udon

Shozan

icon-location-pin Katsushika

The decor may be simple, but Shozan's menu is anything but. Specialising in Sanuki udon (thick, chewy noodles), they offer energy-boosting dishes like 'Bukkake Genki Dama', which is topped with lots of grated radish, green onions, seaweed, tempura bits and an egg. The thick noodles combined with the rich Kanto-style soup gives this bowl an excellent flavour. It's not that easy to find this restaurant, but it's worth hunting it down to try their seasonal menus. If you're lucky, you might arrive on one of their 'thicker noodle' days.

Restaurants

Chosa

icon-location-pin Ningyocho

Formerly based in Bakurocho, the plucky Chosa moved to Ningyocho in January 2017. If it's noodles you're after, there's no going wrong at this eatery: the chewy, slightly sticky udon is made with only domestic wheat, and can be sampled with a wide variety of topping and soup combinations. First-timers will do well to go for the basic kake udon, served simply with a light broth made from Setouchi dried sardines and konbu seaweed, and also available as a large-size version at no extra cost. Meanwhile, friends of tempura may want to try the seafood offerings, which range from shrimp to squid. 

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Restaurants, Udon

Goro

icon-location-pin Kinshicho

Specialising in the sanuki udon of Kagawa, this Kinshicho shop is nothing if not particular about its noodles: the dough is made with the same mountain water used by sake breweries out in western Tokyo, while the udon is of the stiff, square type that keeps its shape and texture even when submerged into piping hot broth. You can choose to have your noodles either cold or warm, and the same choice can be made for the broth as well. Indecisive diners may want to go for the shoyu udon set, which lets you savour both varieties together with a soy sauce-based dashi. The tempura can be had for ¥100 per piece – try the chicken, chikuwa (fish cake) or konbu (seaweed).

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