First, a confession. I love udon. Hot, cold, with egg, without egg, with tempura, without tempura, with kamaboko, without it, etc., etc., etc. My mom used to make big batches, with her own homemade dashi, for Friday night dinner. The leftovers were put in the fridge and we'd eat them cold the next day for lunch, with all four of us happily slurping away at the dining room table. If you gave me a choice between udon and ramen, I'd pick udon, hands down. So I'm biased.
Went to U;Don, the new Japanese udon place on the Ave today. We were there around 4 pm, and all the customers (maybe a half dozen people) were Japanese or Japanese American.
The concept is Japanese modern fast food in a cafeteria line. But don't let that put you off. Choose amongst 6 different types of udon (more if you count whether you want it hot or cold), and whether you want small, medium or large. If you choose hot, they warm the bowl for you. If you want, you get chopped green onion and grated ginger for free. A hot spring egg (coddled) is extra for $0.99 unless you pick the udon that includes it in the first place. Then you pick your toppings: various types of tempura--you get charged by the amount you pick--kaki-age (mixed veggies bound together with tempura batter and deep fried), kara-age (Japanese fried chicken), or onigiri--and a beverage. I got soup udon, my husband got on-tama udon, which comes with the hot spring egg. I got the dashi broth; he picked a heavier fish sauce. Since this was just a snack, we both got medium, plus he picked out a large piece of eggplant tempura; I had a few pieces of veggie tempura( broccoli, potato, asparagus). The tempura can be put on dishes separate from the udon. The tables come with soy sauce and shichimi pepper.
We were both very pleased with our meals. The dashi was quite good (not as good as the excellent dashi at Tsukushinbo). The fresh noodles were plentiful and nice and thick and chewy. The tempura, which had been sitting under a heat lamp for a while, was still good, if not quite as crisp as it likely was when it came out of the hot oil. But then most places that serve tempura udon put the tempura on top of the udon and then pour the dashi on top of that, so any crispness is long gone anyway. (If you want really crisp tempura udon, go to Tsukushinbo, where the tempura comes on the side) Total bill (with a bottle of cold green tea for me) was under $18.
There really is no good place for udon that I know of north of the Ship Canal. I'll be going back to U:Don to make my way through the menu. http://freshudon.com/
Unlike Pao, I'm usually not a huge fan of udon (since it's usually the refrigerated, packaged, premade stuff) and I would almost always take ramen over udon, but I have to echo his enthusiasm for this new place.
I went with the curry udon. I guess i'd say I'd prefer it with a thicker, darker curry that helps thicken the soup, but this was pretty good. The fresh noodles really make the dish.
As Pao noted it's a great value. I got a large with takoyaki and a couple pieces of chicken karaage for under $10.