I watch anime. It’s not a secret. And when I walked into the unassuming lil’ spot that housed Maru Udon in Dubai’s Business Bay district, I remembered that it’s been a while since I’ve indulged in an anime that’s so intensely focused on food that I get hungry just watching it: Shokugeki No Soma (Seriously, just watch the trailer for Season 1, but fair warning: like many animes, there’s a lot of obsession with, uh, the female form).
But, back to the point. Maru Udon. I’d first heard of it a few months ago, and what I had seen of it looked amazing. But it was only in early September that I went with two friends, and then returned three days later with another friend! That should tell you something.
Maru Udon looks absolutely adorable, with popping colours, anime artwork and a cozy vibe. You can see into a bit of the kitchen depending on where you sit, and what I love about this place is that they make their udon noodles on-site. There’s a large neon sign in the kitchen proclaiming that this is indeed the ‘Udon Factory’.
But the star of the show: the food. Outer trappings are amazing, but if the substance doesn’t match…
I needn’t have worried. Across the two times that I visited, I tasted some wonderfully made noodles, and also some fantastic broths. The couple I first went with have eaten their way through Japan (alas, I still have not been), and they also said the noodles were really good, and the broth was decent. High praise from a pair of gourmands.
My favourite udon bowls so far remain the Tantan Shezuan for its spice kick and meaty flavours, and the Goma Sesame for the nutty and earthy taste. The latter is vegetarian, but you can simply add an Ontama egg (short for Onsen Tamago) on top if you feel the need for it.
Special mention to the Karaage fried chicken (anime side note: there’s a few episodes in the first season of Shokugeki No Soma dedicated to karaage). As it’s meant to be: crispy on the outside with juicy, tender and more-ish insides. On one visit, I had the Mugicha, which is barley tea, and I really loved the toasted flavour.
From what I can tell, this is a home-grown brand, and one that is committed to authenticity and fresh and solid flavours. The price point is extremely affordable (see photos of our bills below), and it’s easily on my list of places I’d happily go to regularly. PLUS POINT: Filtered water is free!
And even though I didn’t make the food or have anything to do with the restaurant… O-agari yo*!
[*I insist you watch at least one episode of Shokugeki – it’s on Netflix, no excuses!]