For the past few years, Kunitoraya on Rue St Anne had monopolized Paris’ udon scene, leading to long lines outside its cramped main branch on a daily basis and the establishment of a second, chic-er offshoot. Now a worthy new competitor in the form of Sanukiya has arrived in the city boasting fat, chewy noodles and excellent side and rice dishes. Kunitoraya better watch out!
The first advantage Sanukiya has over its predecessor is a more comfortable setting. Though the majority of space is dedicated to bar seating, the seats are less cramped in the brightly lit room. Also, there is a small outdoor seating area catering to larger groups.
The second is a wider selection of dishes including a dozen side dishes (~4-10e), about 2 dozen permutations of udon (both hot and chilled at 8-18e) and solid rice bowls (~15e) for those not inclined towards noodles. The side dishes sound appealing and the tamagoyaki and agedashi tofu we had ordered were indeed correctly made; the tamagoyaki firm, eggy and slightly sweet with a refreshing taste of spring onions, the deep-fried tofu blistering hot, steeped in a dashi stock enliven with grated ginger and daikon.
Given the unseasonably cool weather, I ordered hot soupy udon both times I visited, the first with the husband at the behest of my baker friend, the second with my parents after they had begged off French food during their visit. There was no cause for complaints each time, the udon toothsome and springy in a umami-packed but not too salty broth. The toppings, though spare in the Japanese fashion, were also of high quality, in particular the freshly fried tempura.
While udon headlines the menu, the classic rice dishes available are similarly delicious and worth one’s while. Both the fried pork cutlet and fried chicken dishes consisted of juicy, tender meat sandwiched between Japanese rice and a barely-set egg mixture, the meat juices and egg sauce flavoring the rice to savory perfection.
More topped the beef bowl: thin slices of tender beef, sweet onions sauteed in soy, a pinch of pickled ginger and cucumber to add a sour dimension to the dish, and a soft boiled egg that tinted the rice and its toppings a rich yellow.
The service by the all-Japanese crew was quick and good during both visits, and the restaurant, while busy was never more than 70% full. Located on a quiet street steps away from the Palais-Royal metro station, the restaurant may lack the foot traffic at Rue St Anne. But given time, I’m sure the udon eating crowd will start descending in droves.
Address: 9, rue d’Argenteuil, 75001, Paris