One of the best udon places I can think of Orange County is definitely Fukada in Irvine. Granted, I don’t know many udon places in the OC. In fact, as I think about it, most Japanese noodle places these days tend to focus on ramen and occasionally, at a Japanese restaurant that serves sushi or other hot foods, I’ll see Nabeyaki Udon on the menu. I wonder what it is about udon that somehow makes it the more neglected noodle of the Japanese bunch. Does anyone have any insight on this?
During lunch time, combination meals are offered where patrons can get a bowl of noodle soup with a small rice bowl on the side for under $10. I ended up getting the Hot Udon with Tanuki which was pretty simple coming with some green vegetables, scallions and tanuki (which are tempura flakes). The udon broth is so light yet flavorful, that it really makes the udon, as a whole, quite a hearty and filling. I really do like it.
Pdho ordered the Cold Soba Noodles with Sansai, which is the only other type of noodles on the menu. Sansai are a mix of mountain vegetables. As I understand it, soba noodles are very difficult to make, so it’s considered quite an art form to make well. Soba noodles usually come dry and are meant to be dipped in a wasabi-flavored soy sauce. Although I liked the firm chewiness of the soba noodles, I still preferred the udon noodles more. I think the hot soup really satisfied my appetite more.
For my rice bowl side, I ordered the Spicy Tuna Don which was absolute yummy. The spicy tuna wasn’t necessarily the best I’ve had, but together with the perfectly seasoned sushi rice, it made for a completely balanced tasting dish. My only hesitation every time I have this is how I know I shouldn’t be eating the whole bowl in one sitting…. even though I always want to. Along with the udon, it would end up being a total carb overload. It really is quite tasty.
I was surprisingly pleased with the unagi from Sea Eel with Rice that Pdho ordered. It was so flavorful and so very well-cooked. The eel was moist and juicy while still slightly crisp from the baking. Each bite of the eel tasted so sinfully tender, almost fatty-like that I couldn’t help but feel guilty eating more than just a couple of bites.
Overall, I really feel this is probably the best place to go to for udon in South Orange County. The food is delicious and the prices are super reasonable. The only complaint is that there often is a long wait which can be quite annoying, but that only helps to confirm how popular this place is with the locals. I recommend coming early and pretty much avoiding the peak hours for lunch and dinner, if at all possible. Otherwise, don’t come hungry and be prepared to wait. At least you know it will be worth it.
8683 Irvine Center Dr
Irvine, CA 92618
PAFO Ratings for Fukada:
Price 2 stars
Ambiance 3 stars
Food 4 stars
Overall rating 4 stars