In our review of the awesome soba restaurant Cocoron, we said if that ramen were Beyonce, soba would be Solange. Ramen is mainstream and widely-beloved, soba is the arguably cooler, more indie sister.
So while we're in the business of comparing Japanese noodles to Knowles sisters, we're going to bring udon into the picture. Udon is Kelly Rowland. Why? Well, first of all, there aren't any other Knowles sisters, and we weren't about to invent one. But it's also a good fit. You're definitely familiar with udon, even if you haven't heard much about udon recently.
Tsurutontan, an udon-focused restaurant near Union Square, is like if Kelly Rowland just released a new album. Is it a chart-topper that's going to change your life? Is it Lemonade? Are your friends going to text you in all caps about it? Nah. But it's still perfectly good, and worth a listen in its own way.
The bowls of udon here are absolutely massive, and eating them makes you feel like an extremely fancy caveperson. You can get your noodles pretty much any way you like - topped with uni, in a hot duck soup, in a creamy sauce with shrimp. There are other dishes on the menu too, but udon's what you'll want to focus on here.
The space looks like a high-end spa, but they actually serve cocktails and the space gets livelier than it looks like it would. If you're really really into Japanese food, or if you work or live near Union Square, or if your best experience with udon has been relegated to midtown bodegas, this place is worth a try. Now Kelly, we're waiting for that album.
A big hot bowl of soup with beef on top. It's an extra $3 to upgrade to the fancier wagyu beef - may as well. Hot soup is our favorite way to eat udon here - if you're not into beef, try the duck or shrimp tempura versions.
Udon in a rich sea urchin sauce, topped with more sea urchin. This is a lot to take down on one's own, so you better really like uni.
Deciding to skip the uni udon, but still want some sea urchin your life? This is a little cup of uni with some caviar. It's not cheap at $18, but a nice light way to start off.
If you feel like you need something substantial to round out your udon (it's a lot of udon, you probably don't), we enjoyed this roll, which was filled with sukiyaki beef and wrapped with tofu. Unusual, but good.