Warmth in a Bowl

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There’s always that one dish you know you can fall back on to fill your belly with comforting warmth and a round fullness. The kind that makes you lean back when you’re done slurping that last spoonful and let out a satisfied, happy sigh.

For me, that dish is the Nabeyaki Udon from a local Japanese restaurant called Umeya.

I’ve grown up eating those packaged versions of udon all my life and honestly, they aren’t that bad. But that flat broth and slightly too soft noodles lack a depth of flavor and chew that Umeya has never failed to deliver, God bless them.

Knowing my ever frugal mother had never indulged herself in anything fancier than the same lackluster packaged noodles I’d eaten in my childhood, I made it my mission to bring her to Umeya during my spring break. And that is what brought us to tonight’s dinner!

That happy hum that sung from my mom’s throat after the first sip of broth was all I needed to hear to know she approved. It was a sign that the endless praise I had heaped upon this dish during the car ride there had not fallen flat.

I always start with that first spoonful of broth that fills your mouth and dances on your tongue. That’s what hooks you in right away. Deep, earthy and flavorful, it warms your soul and wakes up your taste buds saying, “You’re about to eat something seriously yummy.”

Then I swiftly go in on the shrimp tempura whose batter underneath is soft from the hot soup but still crunchy on top. I have some of the crunchy bamboo slices and silky, chewy mushrooms. You can’t forget the huge egg in the middle and the fresh, soft scallions that simultaneously compliment and cut through the earthy broth.

Then come the noodles.

The noodles are my absolute favorite. Thick and chewy, with the right amount of elasticity udon noodles should have. It’s something that I’ve always mourned in previous subpar udon dishes. And that ricey flavor that develops as you keep chewing is heaven for a noodle fanatic.

After you eat through the first layer of udon, quickly going through delicious spoonfuls of noodle, broth and mushroom you discover a hidden treasure cove…of chicken! Hidden under the bed of tempura floatings and egg, are meaty chunks of juicy, dark chicken meat that are almost slightly sweet.

And all this comes in an earthen clay pot that keeps it piping hot the entire time you’re slurping away.

Can we just take another look at all its glory?

Yep, it’s official. I’m in love. This whole first post seems like a shameless propaganda essay Umeya paid me to write (one I would have gladly written), but I really just wanted to share this wonderful dish with you. If you happen to be in Creskill, NJ (Bergen County) and you’re searching for some good udon (or authentic Japanese food for that matter), you should really try it!

Umeya
156 Piermont Rd.
Cresskill, NJ
07628

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