Marugame Udon, a Japanese chain with more than 1,000 restaurants around the world, opened its ninth U.S. location in Downtown Berkeley this past Tuesday, according to Mark Brezinski, the president and chief strategic officer of Marugame Udon USA.
The restaurant, located at 1919 Shattuck Ave., prides itself on its authentic Japanese-style noodles. Marugame Udon does not use frozen products, and it makes its noodles and tempura batter daily using imported Japanese flour, according to Brezinski.
“I think that’s one of the wonderful aspects,” Brezinski said. “You don’t find many places that cook you authentic food in front of you … that once you order it you can go immediately start enjoying it.”
The restaurant serves its food cafeteria-style, allowing customers to customize their own bowls. Brezinski added that Marugame Udon provides customers with a great opportunity to “eat better” and “more affordably.”
At Marugame Udon, customers can see the food being prepared in front of them. The customers and the cooks are separated only by the cooking medium and a sneeze guard, according to Brezinski.
“I call it theater cooking because it’s like actors on a stage,” Brezinski said. “If you’re in the front row, they’re looking you eye-to-eye. There’s no wall between you and them.”
The overall reaction to Marugame’s opening has been overwhelmingly positive.
Berkeley resident Keisuke Wada, who used to live in Japan, said Marugame Udon’s noodles remind him of the food he used to eat back home.
Julian Straker, another Berkeley resident, said he was happy when he heard from friends that a Marugame Udon location was opening in Berkeley.
“I tried the San Francisco one, and I like the freshness and flavor,” Straker said. “I think it is unique, good food.”
East Bay resident and mother of three, Cadtelia Retiana, said she has been a fan of Marugame Udon’s San Francisco location for a long time.
After the new location opened, Retiana decided to take her family to try it out. She added that she appreciates the restaurant’s more affordable prices.
“My kids love udon. It’s cheap, and I love the menu,” Retiana said. “I was really excited when I heard about this location. This is my place to hang out and my kids love it.”
Vanessa Aldis, a manager at Seasons of Japan — a neighboring Japanese restaurant — said she has some concerns regarding potential competition, especially as udon is one of Seasons of Japan’s best-selling dishes.
Aldis added she is still excited about the new business, however, and hopes to try Marugame Udon’s food.
According to Brezinski, the restaurant currently only serves dinner between 4 p.m. and 10 p.m. After its grand opening that is currently set for Oct. 28, Marugame Udon will also be open for lunch.