A cool photographer Jason Wyche told me about this place. His wife is Japanese, and he lives in the neighborhood, so I figured he knew what he was talking about. It turned out to be a good call, except for one question: Why is it called Udon West if it’s in the East Village? The restaurant is on busy St. Marks Place, which has turned into a mini Japantown in the past couple of years. Then I found out this restaurant used to be on the Upper West Side on W. 72nd Street, hence the name. The restaurant is tiny — it can’t hold more than about 20 people, so don’t be surprised if there is a wait for a seat. Then again, the turnover is pretty speedy. This isn’t a place you come to for hanging out. You come here for yummy udon noodles. Sure, the noodles appeared to be frozen when they add them to the boiling water (sit at the bar and you can witness all of the cooking from a few feet away), but if you like udon, you’re probably going to be satisfied. I got mine with a potato croquette, and what’s not to like about fried potato goodness?
A little less appealing were these rice balls. It’s okay, but I’d recommend another place down the block for rice balls. Maybe it’s just me, but I like mine a little crispy on the outside. Or even better, I like my rice balls to be Italian, but that’s a different story.