This hot new noodle is ready to kick ramen to the curb

This hot new noodle is ready to kick ramen to the curb

TsuruTonTan’s springy noodles are made fresh daily.Photo: Stephen Yang Sayonara, soba. Arrivederci, ramen. Udon, a 1,000-year-old staple of the Japanese diet, is the hot noodle in town for slurping your way to heaven. Brand-new TsuruTonTan Udon Noodle Brasserie, the first US outpost of a Japanese chain, had the chutzpah to open on the former site of Union Square Cafe at the end of August. It’s a bold move, given both the hallowed ground it’s occupying and its menu offerings. In New York, udon — a humble, long noodle with flat edges made only from wheat flour, salt and water — has a reputation for being a mediocre takeout staple. It’s often been eclipsed by sexier, soupy Japanese offerings with bolder flavors. Buckwheat gives soba noodles an inherently nutty taste, while ramen takes on a yellowish tint and mineral quality from the alkaline water with which it’s made. But TsuruTonTan is intent on showing that its noodles, when done right, can be just as delicious. “I know ramen has boomed, but I really think udon is the next big thing, and we want to be the pioneer,” says managing partner Joji Uematsu. I’ll slurp to it. I enjoyed their noodles with five different broths, and I look forward to going back for the 29 others — most hot, a few cold — all shown on a menu colorful and bright enough to read through sunglasses. Crowds are lining up for udon at the new TsuruTonTan near Union Square.Photo: Stephen Yang Photo: Stephen Yang TsuruTonTan — a contraction of the Japanese words for slurping, dough-kneading and noodle-cutting — makes its udon from scratch daily. “We use a traditional pressing method to keep the dough firm,” Uematsu says. The resulting noodle has the toothsome quality of the best Italian pastas cooked al dente. Many lesser restaurants in the city rely on dried and frozen noodles, a process Uematsu says eliminates the gluten that supplies udon’s texture and firmness. At its best, udon lends itself to as many broth variations as ramen does, its neutral flavor comfortably supporting myriad combinations. TsuruTonTan’s range from traditional dashi fish stock, rich in kombu kelp and bonito flakes, to weightier, sinfully rich egg-drop broth laden with mentaiko caviar and “curry and crème” chicken. Bowls big enough to feed two are priced from $15 to $23, appetizers are $7 to $19, and donburi rice bowls run $14 to $26. Meanwhile, the spirit of Union Square Cafe isn’t entirely extinct. “I just met [former USC chef and partner] Michael Romano,” Uematsu says. “He’s in Japan now, running a Union Square Cafe in Tokyo, where there’s a TsuruTonTan very close by.” And in a few weeks, Danny Meyer’s new Union Square Cafe will open at Park Avenue South and 19th Street — just a few noodle-lengths away. TsuruTonTan Udon Noodle Brasserie, 21 E. 16th St.; 212-989-1000

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