We were desperate for a noodle fix while in Cambridge and decided to try Kineya Mugimaru on Petty Cury, Cambridge, in Lion Yard. While we are generally bigger fans of ramen than udon, Kineya only serves udon; that and a whole range of tempura and some rice bentos.
We have always been hesitant about udon in restaurants, mainly because unlike in Japan, most udon boiled from pre-dried sticks, tend to end up overly done, starchy and all-in-all, a limp and disappointing experience.
That said, the udon at Kineya Mugimaru, leaves you wanting more. Freshly made in store, the udon is silky smooth with a definitive springy bite. Accompanied by very tasty dashi and other flavoured stock the options of udon servings appear almost endless.
We spent far too long trying to decide which udon to try flipping forwards and back on the ordering stations by the main entrance. Thankfully it was late in the afternoon and there wasn’t a queue of people waiting behind us to order.
We were grateful to be able to ‘study’ the variety on the menu and good photography certainly made everything mouth-watering. We were more than pleasantly surprised that the assumption of tasty and good food was well deserved.
In the end we decided on the Kitsune Udon in traditional udon soup with Inari and spring onions and Tonkotsu Udon with Tonkotsu broth, homemade chashu grilled pork belly and miso chilli topped with bean sprouts, egg and spring onions.
Kitsune Udon is perhaps one of the strictest tests of a simple bowl of udon. In essence it is little more that a bowl of noodles in broth with a couple of slices of deep-fried tofu skin and a small dash of spring onions for garnish.
This means that the udon itself is the mainstay of the entire bowl. There is no hiding behind meat or handfuls of vegetables and garnish. Sure enough, it was a beautiful bowl.
The udon was springy and had a ‘bite’ which was very well complemented by the dashi stock it is swimming in. The stock soup was neither too bland nor overly salty.
The whole experience contrasted with the sweetness of the tofu skin made for a very enticing, mouth watering experience. With simplicity being key in this bowl, there is without a doubt that the udon at Kineya lived up to its hype.
The Tonkatsu Udon was again a well portioned, well stocked bowl, the soup did appear to be more cloudy than most Tonkatsus we have had before. Nevertheless it did not disappoint.
The pork belly (char siu impression) was succulent and soft inside and well complement with a slightly burnt, charred skin. The egg was cooked through, unlike the specialist soft-centred ramen eggs. The soup broth was very flavoursome and certainly a whole level up from the simple broth of the kitsune udon (above).
Pickings from the Tempura counter
It is almost impossible to walk past the Tempura counter, on the way to the till and not be tempted to pick something up, whether or not you really need it.
While those two bowls of udon would have been enough for us, we simply could not resist picking up a couple of crunchy tempura sides; Vegetable Kakiage Tempura, a mix of carrots, pumpkin, edamame soy beans and onion in a tempura cake and Takoyaki Balls.
Be thoroughly tempted with the Tempura – Kakiage tempura is definitely worth a go. Although it is not freshly fried hot or even warm, it remains crispy and with the oil drained well, the crunch is definitely something to enjoy.
At £2.50 it was exceedingly good value for money and the different types of vegetables mixed in gave it a treasure hunt type of feel. Pulling off piece by piece and picking up bits kept us entertained for quite a while.
Skip the Takoyaki. Unfortunately the Takoyaki at Kitsune was disappointing. The inside of the balls we soft and limpid and there were traces of octopus but hardly enough to get a proper bite in. They looked really good presented on a platter but were sadly not up to standard at all.
Overall, we would say, definitely put Kineya on your must-visit list if you’re a fan of udon and tempura.
Other udon dishes we would love to try on our next visit:
- Beef Udon – udon in Kineya’s Original Broth, Beef Brisket, topped with spring onions.
- Panko Fried Chicken Curry Udon – udon in Japanese curry served with fresh panko fried chicken and spring onions.
- Laksa Prawn Udon – udon in rich & spicy broth with prawns, fish cake, egg, bean sprouts, fried tofu and pak choi topped with chilli miso & coriander.
It is worth noting that the Kineya we visited in Cambridge is the only other Kineya in UK. Their other outlet is in London St Pancras Station.
If you’re curious to know if we ever went back to Kineya… read on.
17 Petty Cury, Lion Yard, Cambridge, CB2 3NE
01223 351 888