Marugame Monzo sounds like a zany Japanese (or possibly Italian) game show where contestants perform wacky stunts for prizes. It’s not. Marugame Monzo is a restaurant in Little Tokyo which makes its own handmade udon noodles on the premises. The craziest thing you’ll encounter here is the wait!
Look for the crowds on E. 1st St., you’ll find a cluster of noodle shop greatness. Surrounded by Daikokuya (long considered one of the best ramen places in town) and the recently opened Ramen Manichi, Marugame is usually packed. Get here before they open, or you will have put your name on the list and wait. If you are with kids or are hungry, the wait can be a little challenging. You may be tempted to take a walk but do so at your own risk. If they call your name and you are not present, they will cross your name out and you will have to start the waiting game all over again.
If you are lucky, you’ll get a seat by the glass-walled kitchen. We were fortunate enough to secure a place right in front of where the udon is made. The guy making the noodles looked very serious and didn’t make eye contact once. If I was put on display like an animal in a zoo, I guess I wouldn’t be too thrilled either.
Big slabs of dough are brought out and folded, rolled, folded, rolled repeatedly until it’s time to be cut. The noodles are sliced by some special machine that is like a paper cutter which separates the dough into strands.
My husband and daughter opted for the traditional udon in fish-based broth. The noodles had that great texture that you can only get from fresh pasta. He was raving about the tofu which he thought must be marinated because it was so flavorful.
My daughter, on the other hand, chose the plainest udon she could find. When she was younger, udon was her favorite. Now that she’s experienced the porky, salty goodness of ramen, she’s been ruined for the pure simplicity of udon.
I opted for the Miso Cabonara. I had to wait a bit longer for mine, but it was worth it.
The udon was blanketed in a creamy sauce with a generous serving of thick cut bacon. I had to restrain myself from eating all the bacon and cream. I think I managed to give myself an extra week of being alive by doing so.
If you miraculously have any leftovers, there’s a note in the menu about bringing home leftovers at your own risk. I’m not sure what they meant by that. My daughter had leftovers, which we brought home and reheated and she ate without any adverse effects.
So if you venture to Marugame Monzo, be prepared to wait. Perhaps you can spend the time counting the people who walk by saying, “Oh, this place must be good.” Or, you could put your name down at Daikokuya as well and see which place is available first. Either way, you win!
Location: 329 E, 1st St., Los Angeles, 90012.
Kid-Friendly – Yes
Kid’s Menu – No
Pesco-Vegetarian Friendly – Yes
Vegan/Vegetarian Friendly – Somewhat with cold dipping noodles and rice bowls.
Gluten-Free Options – No gluten-free udon, but they do have the above-mentioned rice bowls.