Despite a satisfying bowl of udon at Marukame the day before, the relentless hammering hot weather kept feeding my craving for some cold udon, and so I decided to give Rakurakuan Udon a second chance.
A while back, I had gone to their first branch at the Hanshin mall adjacent to the Kaohsiung Arena, it was on a week-end, the wait was quite long, long enough that I almost lost my appetite. The atmosphere was frantic, the staff was running left and right trying to service everyone but looked kind of disorganized at it, and whether the food was good or not, I don’t even quite remember. It was a forgettable experience, and forget I did.
But then again, I can be a pretty forgiving person :twisted:. Rakurakuan Udon happens to have a second branch inside the Dream Mall, conveniently close to my homebase, and since I had a shopping errand, I bicycled my way over during the past week-end. Yes, nothing better than a ride under the sun and the humid air to work myself a sweaty appetite :).
Restaurants are spread throughout different floors of the Dream Mall, the 7th floor is host to the Japanese Food Alley 日本美食街, also home of Rakurakuan Udon. You can’t miss it with the udon maker in his box, busily kneading the udon dough. Since, I didn’t want a repeat of my first visit, I arrived before the lunch rush, because Mazu knows how scary an hungry Taiwanese crowd can get on the week-ends.
The menu has something for everyone, some cold udon, some hot udon, some stir-fry udon (yaki udon), and their so-called creative udon, resembling Taiwanese-style Italian pasta but with udon instead of spaghettis, if that makes sense. There are many side dishes to be chosen from, but the ones that looked good to me were fried, so I had to pass on that, and salivated at the plate of fried squid that landed on the adjacent table.
The disturbingly named “parent and child” 親子 udon, meaning mother chicken and baby egg, came in a hot broth, lightly flavored, it was a hearty bowl of noodles that hit the spot, even on a hot day. The cold udon took a little longer to arrive, I guess due to the cooling process, with a tiny side of condiments and a cup of shoyu for dipping. The udon had a good bite and good chewy texture, simply coated in the shoyu sauce, it made for an unpretentious yet pleasant lunch, more please!
Returning there a few days later, I got the udon mochi, a cold noodle dish with lightly fried cubes of japanese mochi, some grated daikon and some shoyu sauce on the side to pour inside the bowl. Though I enjoyed this unexpected combination of ingredients, the mochi felt a bit too greasy, so I started lunch-dreaming, thinking how roasted mochi would work better, with a crunchy skin and soft inside, and without any artery clogging oil!
I don’t know if service at the Hanshen Mall store has gotten better, but I think I’ll be sticking to the Dream mall location for any sudden udon craving that may erupt. Aside from my proximity to it, the restaurant feels also more spacious and the staff always on their toes to refill your cup of tea or check on the current status of your meal.
As for the story behind Rakurakuan, the restaurant brand saw the light thanks to an ambitious Taiwanese husband, wanting to find a solution for his Japanese wife who was feeling homesick of her native food. In 1999, they started by opening an izakaya called 合掌, and later jumped in the hand-made udon venture. I’ve passed by the izakaya in the past, just from the outside, it feels very welcoming, and since I am now reconciled with their udon shop, I feel more at ease getting acquainted with the izakaya of the Rakurakuan family.
Name: Rakurakuan Udon 樂樂庵之烏龍麵
Additional Reviews+Photos: pixnet/linatas, pixnet/loveelva829
Price: 100 NT+ (10% service fee already included in listed price), 15% off on Tuesdays on all udon dishes
Menu: Chinese and English
Locations: 7th floor at the Dream Mall, and 4rth floor at the Kaohsiung Arena Hanshen Mall
Business Hours: check company’s website