1 Main St
Box Hill, VIC 3128
It just hit me that in the two and a bit weeks I spent in Japan last year, I didn’t have a single bowl of udon. At the time, I was too busy chasing up the perfect ramen that was, until recently, so elusive in Melbourne. In hindsight it probably would’ve been nice to have a bona fide Japanese udon, but I’m not too upset – I think we have it pretty good here in Melbourne.
Japanese food doesn’t have much of an audience in the outer eastern suburbs, where the Asian population largely stems from China and south-east Asia. But that doesn’t stop the occasional Japanese restaurant, such as Umaido, from cropping up. And I for one rather like the blatant Japanese-ness of it.
One thing I got very used to seeing in Japan was wide selections of fried snacks lounging under heat lamps – they were everywhere, in restaurants, supermarkets, even convenience stores. And Umaido, aside from specialising in udon (and a small smattering of rice-based dishes), also has one of those nostalgically familiar pick-your-own-sides stations.
|Ontama Udon ($5.9)
The Ontama Udon ($5.9) is exactly what I think of when I think of udon. Though the noodles were a bit overcooked, they were fat and slurpable. The soup is fantastic, a light umami with the faint fishiness of bonito, turning creamy with the stream of yolk from the soft boiled egg.
Hungrier than I am, but less of a purist, Chris had the winter special of… I have embarrassingly forgotten to note the name down, but it was something along the lines of a Pork Belly in Pork Broth Udon($9.9). Unlike the delicate little bowl of Ontama Udon, this one was much more generous in portion, the delicate soup replaced with a cloudy, garlicky broth. The slices of pork, rather than being thick and fatty, were smoky and chewy, and enjoyable in its own right.
|Takoyaki ($2, 2pcs)/Vegetable Korokke ($1.8)/Karaage Chicken ($2.9, 3pcs)
We chose three sides to go with our meal. The Takoyaki ($2, 2pcs) was a disappointment, gluggier than it should’ve been even after sitting out under the heat lamps. The Vegetable Korokke ($1.8) fared better, the patty of smooth mashed potato coated in a golden crumb. The Karaage Chicken ($2.9, 3pcs) was the best, the juicy ribs flavoured with a spice rub and tasted fantastic despite being lukewarm.
Though Umaido is not fine dining, and the udon certainly isn’t as good as this or as this, it provides a good imitation of the true udon experience for a fraction of the price. If I can peel myself away from the Ontama Udon, I might give the soft boiled egg curry rice a go.
Rating: 13/20 – slippy slurpy.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.