Ichiryu brings fast food udon noodles to London’s increasingly diverse Japanese dining scene and it’s about time!
In the last 5 years, ramen has spread its wings and there are now umpteen London restaurants specialising in ramen – including a few small chains – selling delicious bowls of the much-loved Japanese noodle soup.
But udon noodles haven’t enjoyed the same rate of growth; not yet at least. Koya, particularly loved by the fooderati, has been a stalwart of course, but the main restaurant closed it’s doors last year, leaving only Koya Bar still in operation; in any case there was never any expectation of the brand expanding. Den Udon in King’s Cross was open for mere months before it closed its doors again, perhaps a victim of its rather out-of-the-way location. And so the best bet for udon-loving Londoners is usually a general Japanese restaurant that happens to offer one or two udon dishes amongst the sushi, katsu and teriyaki.
As one of those udon-loving Londoners, I’m hoping that 2016 is the year that udon makes more of a splash!
Located on New Oxford Street a few steps away from Tottenham Court Road station, Ichiryu Hakata Udon House, to give it its full name, is another business venture from entrepreneur Tak Tokumine, founder of the long-established and much-loved Japan Centre in 1976, as well as Shoryu Ramen — now a chain with five locations. Tak’s hometown is Hakata, in Fukuoka city, Kyushu which claims to be one of the birthplaces of udon in Japan. Just as Shoryu’s original menu focused on Hakata-style tonkotsu ramen (there are now multiple styles of broth available), Ichiryu also looks to Kyushu for inspiration.
Note that Ichiryu is set up for fast dining, though not as fully self-service as your usual burger or chicken joint.
Guests are seated and given a menu as in most restaurants, but must place and pay for their orders at the till, giving their table number on ordering. Food and drinks are then served to the table by staff, and tables are cleared by them too.
The menu focuses on udon and tempura with a range of sides, a few rice bowls and some sushi and onigiri.
The Hakata Bun (£4.50) with its filling of BBQ pork, Cod Tempura or Chicken Tempura inside a pillowy white steamed bun will be familiar to Shoryu customers, and it’s just as delicious here. I love the combo of pork, lettuce, cucumber, Japanese mayo and barbeque sauce.
Tempura is hit and miss for me. The single Tempura Prawn (£2) is decent; the batter light and crisp and the prawn cooked just right. But the mixed vegetable Kakiage (£2) is very unwieldy to eat and very quickly goes soggy as steam gets trapped within the ‘nest’.
After these snacks it’s on to the udon. For those of you not yet familiar with these noodles, they are thick and white with a distinctive chewy texture that is enormously satisfying. Ichiryu’s udons are made fresh daily using Japanese wheat flour.
From the Hot Udon list we choose Niku Beef (£11.50) described as sukiyaki beef, spring onion in tsuyu bonito soup.
The broth is light yet with a decent beefy flavour, and the noodles are cooked to retain that lovely chew. My surprise on tasting this is that the generous portion of thinly sliced beef is plain and not marinated in a soy, sugar and mirin mix as I’d expected from the sukiyaki label. That makes the dish a little blander than I’d like, overall. It’s good but doesn’t blow me away; when it comes to soup noodles I’d prefer a bowl of intensely rich tonkotsu ramen.
Our choice from the Cold Udon list is something far more special.
Ontama Egg (£8.40) comes with an ontama poached egg, spring onion, ginger and tempura pieces in tsuyu bonito sauce. There’s a dollop of fresh ginger paste too.
This dish shows off the udon noodles far more successfully, and the first mouthful of noodles, slippery from the sauce and studded with a few crunchy bits of tenkasu, transports me immediately to Japan. It’s an immediate visceral reaction that remains with me through subsequent mouthfuls. The cold perfectly poached egg, the soft raw ginger, the fresh spring onions and the crunchy tempura fragments combine with the noodles and sauce in perfect harmony.
This is the dish I will be returning for again and again and again.
For dessert, Pete enjoys a Kagua Rouge Craft Beer (£6.30, 330ml, 9% abv), brewed on license in Belgium.
I can’t resist Mochi Ice Cream (£6 for 3 pieces) and am delighted to find that they are Little Moon ice cream mochi, which have admired since they launched a couple of years ago. From front to back, they are matcha, sesame and yuzu flavours.
With it’s fast food approach, Ichiryu doesn’t take reservations. Opening hours are Mondays to Saturdays 12 – 22:30 and Sundays 12 – 21:30. Last orders 30 minutes before closing.
Do yourself a favour and find time to drop in for a Hakata Bun and a bowl of Ontama Egg Cold Udon. You will not be sorry!
Kavey Eats dined as guests of Ichiryu Hakata Udon House.
Please leave a comment - I love hearing from you!26 Comments to "Ichiryu Hakata Udon House"
F is always on the look out for some fab Japanese food so from the sound of your right up I think he will like Ichiryu.
The loss of the main Koya restaurant was sad, wasn’t it?
Thank you for bringing this new Udon restaurant to my attention. Hope to try it soon.
Another brilliantly written and scrupulously fair restaurant review.
Snig, I went to Koya a few times but not regularly as I wasn’t in Central London that often and I’m not good at queueing!!! And thank you!
Yes, yes, yes! We LOVE Japanese food, and this place looks like it would definitely satisfy. Those udon noodles look great. Never tried a Hakata Bun either – I’m intrigued! We were just in Hakata last week, and tried the pork only buns which were amazing.
I don’t think I had udon noodles when we went to Hakata a couple of years ago, nor the buns. Did have a couple of great ramens though!
I love Japanese food. This all looks so good.
Yes, it’s great.
I have maybe 20 different kinds of noodles in my pantry but Udon is my favorite. I hope it does make it big one day (although I think it’s close to it.)
I adore udon too so I’m with you!
The Hot Udon soup is definitely one for me. I will have to visit just to try that 🙂 Sure I might add a few extra things on when I order too though 🙂
Hakata bun for the win! The hot udon was good but oh oh oh the cold udon was just amazing!
I love udon! Haven’t had any since I was in the USA ages ago when there was a great place near where I was staying. Those photos make everything look really delicious 🙂
It’s just so chewtastic.
Will have to add this to my ever growing list! Shame the beef ones were bland as they look yummy. I’ll have to try the egg dish instead. The £2 tempura sounds reasonable for London too!
Not totally bland, the broth was beefy, but a little less punchy than I’d like.
Yes! I love Japanese food – looks like I’ll have to hit this place up the next time I’m in London. I’ll have to make sure to go with friends so that I can sample more food!
Hope you and your friends enjoy!
perfect food for the weather we are having at the moment. This place sounds great and very Central. Must pop in when I am in the area. R
This post is making me hungry!!! YUM!
You have got me, at 8.56 am, wanting to hop on a train and head to London. The cold udon looks wonderful. But so does everything else you mention (I don’t think I am such a connoisseur so the hot noodles dishes and tempura would be fine by me!). I wonder what non-porky buns they have? I am not a keen bun lover, but I am willing to do a bit of research 😉
I’m surprised udon bars haven’t really taken off in London, I’d have thought they’d be hugely popular. Fingers crossed this one make it – sounds fab.
I love ramen, but in my personal opinion, it’s all about the balance of broth, toppings & noodles. I generally don’t eat udon noodles because they’re thicker and more filling. I tend to prefer thin rice noodles (and less of them) since I’m all about the broth. However, when you feel like a heartier ramen, they are awesome!
I love udon noodles. We have an amazing Japanese place near use and I haven’t been there for ages. Thanks for the reminder 😉
Coming back from London. We loved the food and appreciate the friendly waiters and waitresses. A pity you are not in Paris;
Yes it’s a pity they are not more widespread!