Monzo’s variety outnoodles competition

Tucked away next to legendary ramen shop Daikokuya is Little Tokyo’s newest udon restaurant, Marugame Monzo. During cold Los Angeles nights, a bowl of fresh, hot udon hits the spot.

Artisan noodles · A Monzo chef rolls out dough for Monzo’s signature hand-Zmade udon, made from a mix of Japanese wheat, flour and water. - Courtesy of Kalai Chik

Artisan noodles · A Monzo chef rolls out dough for Monzo’s signature hand-Zmade udon, made from a mix of Japanese wheat, flour and water. — Kalai Chik | Daily Trojan

Instead of settling for a cup of instant ramen, head over to Monzo for a variety of fusion, traditional hot or cold handmade noodles.

Unlike the new variety of ramen shops, Monzo not only provides an Eastern, calming ambiance but also includes an open kitchen where customers can watch skilled noodle artisans make udon.

Using only the freshest ingredients, Monzo offers hungry customers the finest quality Japanese food and toppings. One big draw? Monzo recreates udon dishes served in Tokyo so perfectly that a customer can taste the authenticity; it’s a quality shown especially in Monzo’s aburaage (fried) tofu.

Even though Monzo is more expensive than some other noodle restaurants in Little Tokyo, it also offers a larger selection of traditional and fusion food. The range of food within the menu caters to vegetarians, fusion foodies and people with big appetites alike.

For customers who want only noodles and toppings, there is a soupless udon menu. For customers who would like a healthy alternative, there is a salad udon menu. And for customers who prefer smaller dishes over noodles, there is also a menu for skewers, salads and rice.

Monzo’s menu is as creative as the hip customers who often come in for a bite. Its “signature udon,” for one, is a combination of creamy pasta sauce with hot, thick udon noodles. Another popular udon comes with the mentai squid butter, standing out as a delicious, buttery fusion udon combined with delectable slivers of squid.

Most customers, however, order from the hot udon menu, which includes the popular duck nanban udon, a hot udon garnished with slices of duck meat. The cold udon options are a great choice during for sticky summertime. As for appetizers, the waitstaff recommends the beef tataki, thin slices of medium-rare beef that’s been seasoned and marinated. There are also two bigger ticket items: the Japanese cheese fondue and udon suki (hot pot), which need to be ordered in advance. At around $30, both items are the most expensive on the appetizer menu (which typically hovers around $7 a side dish). But, rest assured, the other items on the appetizer menu are not nearly as expensive. For the average customer, one bowl of udon with a side order easily makes a full meal.

Though the restaurant is a new contender in Los Angeles’ noodle race, Monzo has been well received by many customers since its opening in late March. Many first-time patrons come in to try Monzo because they are curious about an alternative option to ramen, while others are returning customers who have waited a long time for an authentic udon restaurant to pop up in Little Tokyo.

This is a real, authentic udon restaurant, the first to open up in Little Tokyo in a long time. At Monzo, the broth and noodles are traditional and taste like the dishes obaachan (grandma)would  prepare.

Still,  there is a Western approach to the food on the menu, which makes it appeal to both ethnic Japanese and Westerners alike.

For those interested in trying handmade udon, Monzo is the place to go. A bowl with minimal toppings, costs between $7 to $13, so this isn’t the cheapest udon place for a college student on a budget. But — if it’s a Friday night and your friends are hungry for some hot udon, Monzo is definitely worth checking out.


Monzo is open for lunch from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and for dinner from 5 to 10 p.m.. It is currently closed on Mondays.