(or MITSUKOSHI A8 UDON & TEMPURA BAR)
at Shin Kong Mitsukoshi A8
No. 12, Song Gao Rd, B2
MRT: Taipei City Hall
website: Marukame's corporate site
or Marukame's Taiwan FB site
hours: 11 AM- 9:30PM
$-$$ (about NT$150-300/person)
Kid friendliness: lots to choose from including rice triangles and fried veggies in disguise. Self serve food court seating. A8 also has high chairs available to use, usually in an area near Mcdonald's
Visit reviewed: 5/20/2013
The last time I saw lines this long
at a food court was for Taipei's new tsukemen spot at the Hankyu
Mall... but despite my disappointing experience the last time, I wanted to give the new sanuki udon spot at Xinyi Mituskoshi's A8 foodcourt a try. I saw the crazy lines on a Sunday and thought it would be less busy on a weekday, but I was wrong. Monday lunchtime was still about a 20-30 minute wait. I'd advise showing up early when the mall opens around 11AM if you want less of a wait. I saw lines even at 3-4PM in the afternoon.
After the ramen craze last year, with the openings of Ippudo
and Santouka to lines of up to two hour wait times (or so I heard), everyone is looking for the new thing. I'm a bit surprised it's udon, with the relatively quick closures of previous tasty sanuki udon favorites in the area- Tenpura Sanuki Udon
and Jika Udon
- which both were busy at first, but eventually flustered at Vieshow.
While waiting in line and deciding what to order, you can spy the busy chefs making the sanuki udon and frying the tempura vegetables and shrimp to keep up with the orders. It's cafeteria style, grab a tray and plates, order what kind of udon you'd like, grab it, pick out your tempura and then pay at the cashier at the end.
I end up ordering the Ontama Bukkake
(NT$119 for large/NT$89 for medium bowl) because it's one of the few cold udon options.. Most of them are hot, including the plain soup udon in a wooden bucket. The Ontama Bukkake comes with a soy sauce and dashi broth and a soft boiled egg atop (which I asked to be on the side). There's about 12 udons to choose from- I was also tempted by the pork tonkatsu broth, spicy pork tonkatsu broth or the curry udon.
It takes a a minute or two for them to cook, scoop and assemble your bowl, but there are still people in front of you in line deciding on their fried options and paying, so just wait and watch the chefs.
Next up is the self serve tempura bar, perfect for those that have wished for more shrimp and less eggplant in their tempura set orders. Grab a plate (or two if you are getting food for your friend who is saving seats for you), and you can pick up however many pieces and whatever you want, paying by piece (NT$25-35 each). This concept works especially well when it's busy- since the turnover is high and the pieces are coming hot out of the oil. There's nothing worse than cold, soggy tempura.
I saw some people who just grabbed 2 pieces, or you could pile on a plateful (like I did) and end up paying about the same price that I would for a sit down ten zaru set.
There's even onigiri rice triangles (with mentaiko, tuna or beef) and inari sushi pieces at the end if you are especially hungry.
Of course, there's a DIY condiments bar, including toppings like chopped spring onions or tempura batter crumbs (aka tanuki) to finish off your bowl. At the very least be sure to grab some chopsticks and spoons.
Finally get to sit down and eat!
Two pieces of shrimp tempura, a vegetable tempura kakiage, pumpkin and green bell pepper
(about NT$150). Hot and crispy, perfectly battered- not too thick or overfried.
And the udon is awesomely chewy, in long ribbons to use your teeth to bite into sections, though the noodles get saltier the longer they sit in the sauce. Next time, I'd definitely ask it for it on the side to dip, or get the pork broth, though I usually find the cold udon more refreshing during the summer.
Besides Japan and Taipei, Marukame (or Marugame) Udon's website lists its other branches in Hong Kong, Indonesia, Korea, Thailand, Russia(?!) and Hawaii.
So udon vs ramen? What's your pick? Would you wait half an hour for food court udon and tempura, or just go to the less busy stand around the corner?