Asian noodles are having their time in the Sonoma County sun these days, with about a half dozen new shops opening over the past year or so. Each has a slightly different focus, and here, at Ippinn Udon & Tempura, the name says it all.
Except actually, the cheerful, fast casual shop also offers bites like potato croquettes, chicken karaage, octopus balls and taiyaki (adorable bean paste desserts fashioned into fish shapes). Plus, you can switch out noodles for rice, and the toppings available for both are so lengthy it’s almost like a full restaurant. Chicken, pork belly, curry tofu… you get the tasty idea.
The process is built for speed. You grab a tray at the counter, ask for either thin or thick cut udon noodles, then move down the cafeteria line requesting toppings. At the end of the line, you add sauces and condiments like togarashi, panko crumbs and house fermented chili paste, pay your bill, grab cutlery from a nifty chopstick dispenser, and sit down to slurp.
But it’s not really fast food. Noodles are made in-house and cooked to order, the variety of broths and sauces are made from-scratch, and toppings are ultra-fresh. You can choose from eight combos, like the opulent No. 2 of silky pork belly chasu and greens in creamy tonkatsu broth, or the rich No. 7 stocked with prawns, scallops, squid, greens and egg in chicken broth.
Rice combos tempt with combos like the No. 9, of thin sliced tenderloin, bell pepper and onions in a thick, slightly sweet sauce, or the No. 10 of pork belly, egg, carrot and broccoli. Both come with sides of beef or chicken soup and seaweed salad.
And you can add tempura to everything, selecting self-serve for items like shrimp, asparagus, fish, squash and other goodies.
This is fancier than a fast food setting, too. Chic blonde wood walls, floor and service counter lend an authentic Japanese feel, with Japanese izakaya curtains over the food assembly line and gentle shoji-style covered lighting. Even the bowls, ladles and trays are pretty, done in blue-and-white Asian print or wood.