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Behind the Bite: An Inside Look into Sanuki Udon

Courtesy of Yaeji M, Yelp.

Three words: Udon. Assembly. Line. Seems like the concept of your dreams, right? Well, let me introduce you to Sanuki Udon — Greenwich Village’s newest internet sensation, serving up fresh bowls of udon, cold noodles, or rice right before your eyes. 

We all know Chipotle and Cava, but Sanuki is the first of its kind in NYC to utilize this efficient and customizable restaurant format to serve udon. After entering, the first stop in line is choosing a base udon: beef, pork, wakame, curry, the list goes on. The staff prepares the hearty bowl of noodles and broth in seconds, and you continue down the line to choose from their selection of side dishes, including tempura chicken katsu, and sesame balls. Season your bowl to your liking with chili powder, extra tempura flakes, and sriracha sauce at their designated seasoning station, and let the slurping commence!

Owner Billy Wang, an NYU Stern alum, said he knew the fast-casual convenience and proximity to the school would make the spot attractive to students trying to fit in a quick bite between classes, without sacrificing quality. He also shared that while this format for udon may be new to the city, it’s frequently found on the streets of Japan — an indication of Sanuki’s authenticity. 

The format isn’t the only authentic element about Sanuki. Wang’s family lives in NYC and owns Ollie’s, a chain of Chinese restaurants, but Wang said he wanted to diversify. His father met a man in Taiwan while visiting a Japanese convention and soon after visited the man’s udon restaurant. Both Wang’s father and himself were inspired by the lack of Taiwanese cuisine in NYC, and decided to bring more of their family’s culture into the community. 

Sanuki imports all of their ingredients directly from Japan, Wang explained. They order 300 bags of flour from Kagawa at a time to create their distinctive chewy noodles — which you can watch them prepare through a window within the restaurant. Although the price is nearly six times more expensive than common wheat flour due to the increased protein content, “it just wasn't up to our standards on how the actual noodles were tasting.” Wang expressed.

Courtesy of Kendall Headley

Their commitment reigns true through the cooking process, as well. All noodles are made from scratch with the traditional method “including repeated and hard dough rubbing, dough maturation, and cutting.” The soup stock is brewed for four hours, and the restaurant’s water filtration system is catered to producing soft water — water with little to no minerals — to avoid noodle breakage and swelling. 

“We make the dough the night before, let it rest for 12 hours, and then we cook it the next day,” Wang said. “And we only let it store for up to two days. If we don't use it, we just throw it out. So that's how we keep it as fresh as possible.”

Since the chefs cook the noodles in advance, they only have to reheat the noodles once a customer places their order — again, let’s note the maximum efficiency. However, Wang noted that if the noodles aren’t used within 30 minutes of the primary cooking, they are thrown out to keep maximum freshness. Every detail, down to the soy sauce, is paid meticulous attention: Even after receiving the Kansai-produced soy sauce import, they ferment it with mirin and granulated sugar for one to two weeks.

The menu, Wang mentioned, is similarly refreshing. In comparison to Ollie’s, which serves “old-school chicken and broccoli,” he said, the dishes at Sanuki provide a more modern offering of Taiwanese cuisine. Wang believes this attracted the younger generation around the NYU campus. 

Don’t just take his word for it: trust the hundreds of Instagram Reels and TikToks raving about the spot. When Sanuki opened, Wang expected a standard amount of business due to the location … But the spot went viral. Social media influencers crowded the restaurant, filming, taste-testing, and ultimately posting widely positive content. 

“It just kept spreading and spreading and way beyond our expectations,” Wang said. “The first week we were busy on the weekdays, which we expected, but then on the weekends, we thought that since there's no school, it would be less busy. Actually, it turned out it was even more busy, because everyone who works and couldn't go on the weekdays decided to come on the weekends.”

Despite having been founded only three months ago, the Sanuki Instagram page, @sanukiudonusa, has already amassed over three thousand followers. Influencers with thousands of followers have already highlighted Sanuki on their pages. 

In the future, Wang hopes to expand Sanuki Udon in other states. He added that New Jersey residents have already expressed interest in opening a franchise. 

Those lucky New Jerseyans.

For Wang, Sanuki’s opening and success is a full-circle moment. Attending Stern allowed him to learn the fundamentals of running a business, and he’s grateful to now give back to the community with his own culture and entrepreneurship.

“I just want to thank the NYU community for such a good reception,” Wang said. “We get students, we get teachers, we get security guards. It seems like everyone is into our food, and I'm glad to just be able to feed everyone.”


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