A warm, soothing bowl of udon: this is the comfort food I grew up with. Whether I was kicking a cold or fighting a stomach bug, nothing cured my ailments quite like a large, slurp-able serving of Japanese udon, a rich noodle soup where the thick wheat flour noodles are stars of the show.
Lucky for me, I’ve spent most of my life in Hawaiʻi, where Japanese restaurants serving the classic Kitsune Udon are in near abundance. But what happens when a restaurant hailing from Japan and specializing in this iconic noodle dish sets up shop in Royal Hawaiian Center? Udon heaven!
On Wednesday evening, This Week Hawaii attended a special media preview of TsuruTonTan Udon Noodle Brasserie. This Japanese restaurant chain brings its udon expertise to its second US location (the first in New York City’s Union Square), along with fresh noodles, delicious seafood and meats, and insanely tasty broth that you need to sample to believe.
Located on the third level of Royal Hawaiian Center’s B Building, TsuruTonTan Udon Noodle Brasserie is housed in an elegant restaurant setting featuring ample seating, an open layout and intricate design details that immediately elevate your dining experience well before you dip your chopsticks into a bowl of udon.
Upon entering the restaurant, we were greeted with a refreshing Mai Tai and a peek at the TsuruTonTan menu. For a chain specializing in udon, I was surprised to find the menu extensive, with offerings including inventive sushi rolls and hearty appetizers. We began the tasting with a trio of popular starters including Hamachi Carpaccio, Salmon Snow Crab Roll and Grilled Duck.
The appetizers were delicious, creative, and very filling. I was surprised by how tender the Grilled Duck was! My favorite, however, was the Salmon Snow Crab Roll—I would’ve been happy just eating the roll for dinner!
But of course, we’re here to eat udon! And eat udon we did—TsuruTonTan proceeded to delight our taste buds (and bellies) with hearty samples of four specialty udon variations, including Uni, Ahi Poke, Beef and Truffle Crème with Snow Crab and Mushroom. By the time we were served the traditional Beef Udon, I was stuffed! But this was some of the most delightful, inventive udon I’d ever sampled, and so, chopsticks in hand, I soldiered on.
Throughout the sampling, TsuruTonTan chefs continued to present previews of some of their most popular dishes, including:
Following the tasting, we enjoyed an exclusive tour of the restaurant, where we were privy to TsuruTonTan’s smart and attentive design choices. Take, for instance, the materials draped over the walls. The distinctive vintage denim hails from Japan, and represents sheets of udon drying. Similarly, the cream ropes intertwined in delicate patterns represent the process of cooking and boiling the noodles.
During the tour, we learned about the sophisticated cooking process that goes into making a single bowl of TsuruTonTan udon. In order to bring Japan’s authentic broth and noodles to Hawaiʻi, the individuals behind TsuruTonTan introduced special water filters to ensure the freshness of the udon noodles, which are aged overnight and made in-house daily using an evolving blend of flour (also imported directly from Japan). The blend is reevaluated every six months, as the flour itself evolves overtime and thereby alters the flavor of the noodles. This type of attention to detail is what sets TsuruTonTan apart from Japanese restaurants across the state, and will surely make this new Hawaiʻi endeavor a successful one.
TsuruTonTan Udon Noodle Brasserie opened its doors to the public on Thursday, June 14 (soft opening). For now, the udon experts will only be open for dinner, 5-9 p.m., but stay tuned for updated hours and other expanded offerings! For location and information: (808) 888-8559, tsurutontan.com/hawaii.
Happy adventuring (and eating)!