Maru Udon is Dubai’s first and only authentic udon noodle house. And you know what? It’s absolutely brilliant! Located on the waterfront side of the newly opened Majestic Tower on Al Asayel Street in Business Bay, its amateurish interior is brought to life with a playful mix of food graphics and manga caricatures which reminded me a lot of some of fast food joints I have visited in Tokyo over the years. There’s an honest, unashamed simplicity to the place, highlighted by the disarray in which the staff yell out their welcome of Irasshaimase! as you walk in.
Japanese Executive Chef Shinya Hongo, a veteran of ITO, is the life and soul of the Maru Udon kitchen. Among other things, he is an udon specialist and prepares everything in-house, from the thick wheat-flour udon noodles to the dashi, soup stock that is the backbone of many Japanese dishes. If there is one thing he prides himself most with, however, it is his Kake Udon, traditional Japanese noodle soup in its simplest form. Served in a mildly flavoured broth called kakejiru, which is made of dashi, soy sauce, and mirin, and topped with nothing more than thinly chopped scallions, it is the purist’s choice of soup.
Like ramen, which is so well known (and popular) outside Japan, Udon too has its own etiquette and culture. It can, for example, be eaten both hot or cold; speaking of which, try Maru Udon’s sensational (cold) Ponzu Citrus Udon – the most refreshing way to have noodles on a hot day (or night). Common udon toppings are tempura, often prawn or kakiage (a type of mixed tempura fritter), or abura-age. In Japan, where udon is considered soul food, many simply have it with a sprinkling of spicy shichimi or dip shortened strands of udon noodles into various dips.
Back in Business Bay, Maru Udon bases its menu on three in-house made stock / broth options – chicken, beef and fish (dashi). Note: there’s often a vegetarian version in similar noodle houses in Japan which uses Kombu (dried kelp) Dashi but I’m not sure if these boys offer it so ask if veg is your preference. In addition to the Ponzu Citrus, my Spanish BFAM José Diego and I also tried the full bodied, miso based Karamiso (spicy), the fiery Tantan Schezwan and my favourite (of the hot soups), the Niku Beef (niku means meat in Japanese). The one I missed and which I will go back for – for sure – is the back to basics, Kake Udon.
We started with a Tempura Karaage combo which, with hindsight, we should have ordered to have with our soup, not before it. Whilst I appreciated the fact that dark chicken meat rather than white was used in the Karaage, a Japanese deep-frying cooking technique which has become the generic word for Japanese fried chicken, I felt that it could have done with a minute or two longer in the fryer. The tempura, however, was as close to perfect as I could have wanted. In general, though, everything we had was worth a lot more mention that I have space for in this short blog.
A few quick tips before I close: if coming by car, note that the only parking option is the paid parking station at the Majestic Tower itself – don’t let a mere AED10 put you off. Remember to walk around to the waterfront side of the building; the restaurant is just past the Deliveroo delivery kitchen. And finally, prices are very reasonable – order generously. I am absolutely chuffed at having found this hidden gem of a restaurant and am grateful to my cousin, Babak, for recommending it. Maru Udon – worth a visit, worth a detour.
Xerxes The Ravenous: #1 Blogger on Zomato Dubai in 2018, 2019 and 2020. Xerxes physically dines at, or orders from, each and every venue he reviews. He pays in full for whatever he and his companions eat, drink, take away or occasionally throw at each other. Xerxes accepts no money, gifts, discounts or free meals in return for reviews or favouritism. What you have read was NOT influenced in any way by the venue. Join me on Instagram @ravenousxerxes or email me on firstname.lastname@example.org.