Musashiya, a Japanese udon restaurant chain, launched its first US restaurant in Westwood Village last week. Crowds of UCLA students waited eagerly outside to try the udon made on the premises. The popularity was no doubt aided by the buy one ramen, get one free coupon which was available for the grand opening.
Once your name is placed on the waitlist, indicating seating preference of counter or table, you retreat outside to wait (and wait) for your name to be called. Luckily the window of plastic food offers some entertainment value in allowing you to “preview” the menu. Of course, you could also just grab a menu like everyone seemed to do and peruse it while you waited. Photos of all menu items appear throughout. If you put your name down and wander away to pass the time, Musashiya is nice enough to keep your name on the list, even if they’ve called your name and you’re not there and will seat you once seating becomes available when you return.
The dining room is brightly lit, with a counter along one side of the room, a couple of communal table in the middle, and a couple of smaller tables along the front window.
For some reason, they chose to wait until the entire counter was free to start seating people there (which seemed a little wacky to me since that means all of the orders would hit the kitchen at the same time). There are hooks on the wall under the counter that one can use to hang their purse/bag. It was a hot day so we had ordered water as soon as our order was taken. It took a couple of follow up requests for water until it actually came.
No sooner had we ordered, a waitress brought out some hand rolls (or as they call them “hug rolls”) that were free. They were roughly 4-5 inches in length and were a little too cumbersome to pick up with chopsticks as the wrapper threatened to burst open when picked up with chopsticks. I noticed that people were getting disposable hand towels when their rolls were brought to them, and a few minutes later, we got ours. My daughter loved the roll. Admittedly it was the first thing that she ate all day so maybe that helped increase her enjoyment.
Her food was brought out first. She chose the Miso Tsuke Ramen – hot, which came with a miso broth for dipping the noodles, which were floating in water in a gigantic bowl that must be at least 12 inches in diameter, a couple of slices of pork, hard-boiled egg and some curry powder. The slippery udon noodles proved to be a challenge for her to grab with her chopsticks out of the water and then attempt to dip them into a much smaller bowl of miso.
My husband chose the Wakame ramen which also came in a gigantic bowl, topped with green onions, wakame seaweed, bonito flakes and a fishcake.
My bowl of Mentai Ankake Tamgotoji Udon arrived last, also in a gigantic bowl, topped with eggs, bonito flakes, seaweed, fish roe, scallions and fish cake. I liked this ramen the best of the three. The Kakame Udon was a little on the bland side and the Miso Udon soup has a funk to it that took me by surprise. I wound up trading udon with my daughter since she was having problems eating hers, and I could tell that she wasn’t that thrilled by the miso soup either. Of course, I completely forgot that she had a cough and am now hoping that I won’t get it too.
To the right of the dining room is a long stretch where the hug rolls and udon noodles are made. Unlike Marugame Monzo in Little Tokyo, it’s less of a show when the noodle master makes the noodles. Opaque plastic obscures the view of where the noodles would be cut (as opposed to the nail-biting view of watching the blade cut the noodles, narrowly missing the fingers of the noodle master’s hand over at Marugame).
Since Musashiya recently opened, the service hiccups are to be expected. The women sitting next to us had finished their bowls of udon and still hadn’t received their tempura order. Exasperated, the woman told the waitress that if the tempura wasn’t coming soon that they would just cancel the order. The tempura came out in a flash after that complaint. There was even a sign on the door explaining that they would be closed on November 1st to work on better quality customer service. I thought this might be an excuse for hung over staff to get the day off after a night of Halloween partying, but my husband reasoned that maybe it was a training day.
Even though there’s no gluten-free udon, gluten-free diners can order the rolls and side dishes like tofu and edamame (which also works for those vegetarian diners). Musashiya has an extensive tempura menu (my husband ordered a tempura egg with his udon) which several people seemed to order. The tables have a bar in the middle on which tempura plates were being placed – probably because there was no room for them once the gigantic bowls of noodles were placed on the table.
Was it worth the wait? If we didn’t have that coupon, I would say no, although it’s always fun to try new places. Musashiya is also running coupons in the LA Weekly that gives diners a free hug roll or side dish with purchase. If you get the chance to beat the crowds (or come here during some off hour) and are armed with a coupon, by all means give it a try.
Location – 1049 Gayley Ave., Los Angeles 90024
Kid-Friendly – Yes
Kid’s Menu – No
Pesco-Vegetarian Friendly – Yes
Vegan/Vegetarian Friendly – Yes
Gluten-Free Options – Yes