Zen Sanuki Udon (Toronto)

While many Japanese noodle shops are small and cozy, Zen Sanuki Udon is palatial with a spacious and airy dining area. To the point they could add more tables given they’re at capacity so quickly – pretty much every table was filled when they opened at 5:30pm. More seats shouldn’t detract from service levels: they employ a lot of staff so that food arrives at a quick clip and there’s always people standing around waiting to serve.

Speed is important when you’re selling noodles in broth. At this Zen location, their menu is based around hand-made sanuki udon from the Shikoki region, which is square-shaped and thinner compared to the cylindrical thick ones found elsewhere.

I expected springy chewy noodles, but they arrived fairly soft for udon. If anything, they tasted like the hand-pulled noodles found at the neighbouring Magic Noodle, which while not terrible is also a dime-a-dozen in the Markham area.

The ebi-ten udon ($16) allows diners to try the dashi broth made with a combination on konbu, bonito flakes, and dried baby sardines in a neutral form. Not surprisingly, there’s a rich umami flavour and it’s just salty enough without becoming overwhelming.

But then they ruined by broth by throwing in so many tempura bits that as you’re sipping the hot soup, every mouthful is filled with mushy batter. A spoonful would have been fine, but it seemed like there was equivalent tempura bits to noodles. As much as I commend chefs who use food scraps to eliminate waste, they should serve them in a separate bowl so diners can add it to broth themselves.

Bits of lemon zest adds a refreshing element to the udon, but the citrusy taste could also be strange for some customers, especially if you’re hoping for soup that’s really hearty and savoury. Who knows, perhaps it’s just something they include during the summer months to lighten everything?

The tempura was kept separate and arrived hot and crispy. While the shrimp a good size and deliciously sweet, I would have liked a light sprinkling of salt on everything as the vegetables were bland so you had to dip it into the broth, rendering the crispy crust soggy, to add flavour.

Their beef udon ($17) is like having bulgogi with udon, the meat thinly shaven and even has the same marinated sweetness. Call me a traditionalist, but it’d be much better if the beef was served in thick slices, similar to the pork shoulder cut you find with ramen.

Large portions is something you won’t find at Zen; if you don’t have a light appetite, add the $3 to upsize the bowl. Even their sides are miniscule: the kamo (duck) roast ($14) only had five slices, which is surprisingly when the actual duck udon already contains four pieces. It’s a satisfactory side, the freshly grated wasabi a lovely addition, but the actual duck could be more flavourful and less chewy.


With Zen’s history of serving solid Japanese cuisine, their soft noodles, over garnished broth, and puny portions is rather disappointing. Which is dangerous since udon seems to be the next “it noodle” opening across the city. With competition, there are better options, in my opinion, to tuck back a bowl.

Overall mark - 7 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 3720 Midland Avenue

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Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!

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