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Amidst the flurry of new ramen, hot pot and tea shops opening up around town is something a little different. That something different is Iyo Udon in Ala Moana Center! Aside from the Downtown Marukame location that opened for business recently we haven’t seen much in the way of new udon places popping up. Could this be a sign of things to come?

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There are currently 36 Iyo Seimen (what it’s called in Japan) locations of this restaurant across Japan, a brand new location in Korean and this brand new location at Ala Moana Center, which is their first step into the US market.

The decor is chic and modern with a Japanese flair. I instantly thought of a trendy new restaurant space in a bustling Japanese city when I first set eyes on this place.

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If you’ve been to Marukame Udon in Waikiki, or Downtown, then the ordering process here will seem familiar. I’ve been told that Iyo is one of Marukane’s biggest competitors in Japan, and I can see why.

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The concept is similar in that it’s more of a casual cafeteria style setup where you walk the line and order your steaming hot (or chilled) bowl of noodles and broth, and proceed to picking out some extra sides. Those sides include fifteen different types of tempura and other fried delicacies, and seven different kinds of musubi.  After that you end up at the register to add on a drink, pay, then find a seat in their 65 seat dining room.

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The price point is very affordable. Starting at $3.75 for a regular bowl of udon, and add-on sides ranging from $1.25 to $1.75. With these very reasonable prices I can see this being a popular stop for tourists and locals alike.

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There was also one unusual little utensil that we noticed near the napkins and chopsticks. I was some sort of tong looking thing in a rigid plastic case labeled simply “Noodle Cutter”, so I’m sure we can all figure out what this is used for. Simple and straight forward. Unusual nonetheless.

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By now you must be wondering how the food tastes, and what I had. Well, I got to try the Ontama Niku Bukkake Udon, and a good sampling of various tempura, some chicken karaage and a couple of musubi.

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The noodles were thick with good body, and nice chew. Perfectly cooked, which was impressive considering the volume and pace the kitchen was dealing with. I should also mention here that the noodles are made fresh in house. The broth was clean and flavorful. The tempura were hot, and the batter was crispy. Believe it, or not, my personal favorite was actually the pumpkin tempura. The Chicken Karaage was also soft and moist on the inside and perfectly crispy on the outside. And as you may be able tell, one of the items was the oh-so-Japanese octopus shaped hotdogs! The musubi were also on par to their competitors, but there was a greater variety with offerings such as Portuguese Sausage, and Tuna Mayo musubis.

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With their upcoming grand opening weekend special starting in just a few hours, Saturday, June 14, and Sunday, June 15, 2014 of $1 bowls of udon from 10:30 am to noon, expect there to be a huge line of curious diners, and if it’s anything like Marukame in Waikiki, don’t expect those long lines to really ever disappear for good.

Iyo Udon
Ala Moana Center
1450 Ala Moana Blvd, space 2054
(Near Genki Sushi, between Rokkaku and Victoria’s Secret)
Honolulu, Hawaii 96814
10:30 am – 10:00 pm Daily