Hand-pulled udon heaven at Torijaya

Udon is hands down my favorite type of Japanese noodle. Always soft and chewy, these thick-cut wheat noodles come in varying thicknesses and is often served in a hot, umami-filled broth.

My first experience with udon was at the Osaka airport when I was in middle school. During a short layover, my mom ordered me a bowl of tempura udon so that we wouldn’t get hungry on the flight from Japan to Taiwan. Always a fan of hot noodle soups, I immediately fell in love with clean, clear broth and thick noodles.

After that, a good bowl of udon was hard to come by. While I was in undergrad at the University of Michigan, there was one Japanese restaurant that I would frequent to order the bowl of tempura udon, but my Japanese boyfriend told me that it was pretty low-tier stuff.

Then, we finally came to Tokyo and I went on the hunt for REALLY good udon. You know, the hand-pulled type that an udon master spends years perfecting his skills to create.

Torijaya in Kagurazaka has that perfect udon.

We’ve come twice now for the five course, Kyoto-style udon kaiseki meal. And each time I leave wishing I had a bottomless stomach so I could stay here and eat forever. The restaurant is very traditional in style; upon entering, you take your shoes off and trade them for a wooden ticket (reminiscent of the bath tokens from Spirited Away).

Once seated, the meal starts out with a hijiki salad, chicken oyster, and beans dusted with gold flakes. (By now, you know what type of meal you are in for).

Next to be presented is a beautiful platter of sashimi – tuna and yellowtail. I had to skip this part of the meal, unfortunately, but by the looks of it sushi-lovers would probably be impressed.

Next up was my favorite appetizer: pork kakuni. Braised in a tender, sweet sauce and accompanied with a couple of vegetables, the deep umami flavor of the fatty pork was to die for.

Finally, the pot of udon, meats, and vegetables arrives at the table.

I took a similar photo two years ago when we first visited, and if you look closely, you’ll see the arrangement of the pot is nearly identical. You can definitely taste that attention to detail in every bite as you dig into the udon-suki.

Topped with shrimp, chicken, clams, assorted vegetables, and mochi, the udon in this pot is not the typical udon you’d find at a Japanese restaurant in the states. It’s thick — nearly an inch wide — and sooo satisfyingly chewy.

The best part about this meal is that the udon broth gets more and more delicious with every bite. All of the fresh ingredients cooking down just adds to the umami, leaving you with an extraordinarily flavorful yet light, clear broth.

Just as you’re about to finish the meal, a few blocks of mochi are brought out. After simmering for a few minutes in the flavorful broth, these savory mochi are also ready to enjoy.

Finally, an apple sherbert is presented as dessert to end the meal.

As we eat more and more food throughout Japan, one thing remains pretty constant. While we might be eating a ton of food in each sitting, the quality of the ingredients and care taken to prepare every meal leaves you with a very clean fullness… so pleasant and light that I wish I could just continue eating here forever.

We are blessed to have pretty good udon in Los Angeles, but nothing will ever come close to the amazing five course udon kaiseki meal at Torijaya.


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