Bowling over the comfort of udon

Ali Carte Columns

January 11, 2015

Story By: Ali Resich | Photos by: Anthony Consillio

When the temperature starts to drop and we find ourselves bundling up in sweaters and extra blankets to stay cozy, turning to piping-hot and soul-soothing soups is a nobrainer. But which type of soup should have the coveted role of keeping us warm? For many, there’s no better choice than udon, and no better place to get it than Iyo Udon.

As one of Ala Moana Center’s newer establishments, Iyo Udon opened in June as a Japanese cafeteria-style eatery offering fresh Sanuki-style udon, rice bowls, musubi and tempura selections in one speedy and affordable locale. It is the first American branch in a chain of restaurants founded in 2010 that has since grown to include more than 30 dining establishments spotted throughout Japan, Cambodia and Korea.

Serving as an ideal option for warming up on chilly evenings, Kake Udon (Regular $3.75, Large $4.75) instantly comforts with long, thick strands of noodles that are made on-site at the Ala Moana eatery, ensuring an excellent level of quality and freshness. The udon is perfectly balanced by a light, healthy and traditional Kansai-style broth prepared with a foundation of kombu (dried kelp) and katsuoboshi (sweet bonito fish shavings).

“Iyo Udon’s very own, specially made, seasoned kake sauce is then added to the dashi to draw out the umami from our broth,” adds restaurant manager Jocelyn Dodson.

And while the mornings and evenings have had a distinct nip in the air, come noon the sun has released its glowing rays to offer some warming relief. For moments like these, enjoy a refreshing bite of Zaru Udon ($3.75 regular, $4.75 large), presenting cold udon with a savory dipping sauce.

Customers also may add a variety of toppings to their udon selections, from grated or pickled ginger to tempura flakes and green onion.

Another way to enjoy a well-rounded meal at Iyo Udon is to take advantage of its tempura and musubi options, which are perfectly situated along the cafeteria line and ready to entice patrons as they pick out their menu items of choice. From vegetables to seafood, and even Fried Chicken Tempura ($1.75), tempura bites add that nice bit of crunch and extra layer of flavor to any meal. Among the most popular choices — especially for seafood lovers — are Squid and Shrimp ($1.75 each) tempura, ready to be dunked into a warm, flavorful bukkake sauce.

“Tempura provides a richer flavor to the somewhat mild flavor of the udon, and the deep-fried batter helps absorb the broth to better enjoy the boldness of the soup,” describes Dodson.

Blending rice, nori and an array of fillings into one petite snack, a musubi also puts the finishing touches on mealtime. Diners can’t go wrong with island-favorite Spam musubi ($1.75), as well as tuna treats such as Tuna Mayo ($1.50) and Spicy Tunamayo ($1.50) musubis.

“The musubi on the other hand, provides a variation, or a momentary distraction, from the soup’s flavor, thereby savoring it again for the next round,” shares Dodson.

So while the chilly winds continue to pick up, take comfort in the form of the flavorful Japanese fare offered at Iyo Udon.

Iyo Udon

Ala Moana Center Second Floor, Mauka, Ewa Wing
Monday-Sunday, 10 a.m.9:30 p.m.

1450 Ala Moana Boulevard, Honolulu, HI 96814

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