Sanuki udon is probably one of the most (if not the most) popular udon or wheat noodle in Japan. Hailing from Kagawa, the modern name of Sanuki , Sanuki udon is most well-known for its very firm and elastic, chewy texture or what the locals describe as “Koshi ga aru”. Whenever someone goes to Kagawa, most people would say to the traveler, “Enjoy udon!” or “Do you like udon?”. Where it is difficult to find Sanuki Udon in Tokyo/Yokohama shops and supermarkets, sanuki udon of course can be readily bought in any Kagawa supermarket or in numerous udon shops for you to take home and cook (or more like boil). However, it’s not uncommon to see long queues like this in Kagawa in front of famously delicious Udon restaurants (and I tell you there are quite a number of udon restaurants around!) even when it’s the middle of winter and there are other udon restaurants in the vicinity.
Azalia talked more about Sanuki udon here.
There are a few udon shops in Kagawa however which offer less firm udon (still firm but not very firm as the usual Sanuki udon), one of the most famous of which is Yamada-Ya Udon.
They have three dining area structures in the compound however this long queue is quite normal in any given day, with several groups still milling around and about.
Once you enter the compound, be sure to look for this booth and list up your name to make a reservation.
Otherwise, you just might find yourself waiting in vain. Falling in line to queue will not help since there are several places to “relax” in while you wait for your turn. Take for one these recently-vacated seats.
You can also opt to roam around and enjoy the garden while waiting for your turn. We visited the place during late summer and mid-winter. The garden would probably be even lovelier during spring and autumn.
Do explore this lovely path too and imagine how it would be in different seasons.
You could also choose to look around for what you’ll be ordering from their sumptuous display in which they showcase some of their main stays.
Be sure to look out for and pay attention to the staff’s announcement though while enjoying the garden. Else, you just might miss your turn. Like in any crowded Japanese restaurants, the staff will call your name out when your turn is up.
After waiting for more than 30 minutes (to think we always go there past “peak” time at 2pm! I can only imagine the waiting time during lunch and dinner time!), we were finally ushered to our traditional seats. Yamadaya has three dining area buildings, each with different interior and table arrangements; some Japanese style with tatami flooring, some Western style. With the crowd however, if you would like to be seated fast, you don’t get to choose which place you’ll be seated albeit the staff will ask you if the place where they’ll be seating you is alright for you (of course, Japanese customer service at its best!).
Of course everything has the “Yamada-ya” mark. Yama in Japanese means mountain, hence, the mountain insignia. The last “ya” in Yamada-ya means it is a family-owned/run restaurant. On a cold day, you can enjoy your hot green tea (photo below) whilst selecting from the menu and waiting for your orders.
For this winter visit, I ordered the Yakisabasushi Teishoku (Yakisabasushi Meal Set). Yes, there’s delicious udon in that bowl filled with wakame (seaweed).
Apart from the udon (which is really why you went to the restaurant in the first place), the main feature of this meal is the yakisabasushi or (flavoured) rice topped with grilled mackerel.
The meal also comes with a tempura set (fried carrot, pumpkin, sweet potato, shrimp and leaf). Yes, a leaf tempura. And this by far is my favourite in this tempura set. So delicate to behold and touch, with a delicate taste, yet one that you would cherish with every bite (and yes, I take it in two bites - I just got to savour each bite of this delicacy.
Another favourite is the Jiebi Mizuna Kakiage (Shrimp and vegetable tempura). Those sharp, pointy shrimp heads may make you think if it’ll go down your throat without scratching your larynx and vocal chords. But really, do get a crunchy bite and you may find yourself munching with a smile. Be sure to dip very lightly on the sakura flavoured salt.
This one is their Kama-Bukkake-Teishoku.
If you wanted more of their udon but has to go back home, you can also take home one of these packages which are also available at the Kagawa Airport. Excellent omiyage/homecoming present too!
Interested? See below for access to Yamada-ya.
[By Car] 20minutes from Takamatsu Chuo Interchange
[by Train]15 Minutes’ walk from Yakuri station, Kotoden Line
For signage, look for the Yama sign posts in the route for Yakuri-ji.
Visit http://www.yamada-ya.com (in Japanese) for more information.