Review: Genroku Udon (겐로쿠 우동)

I don't cover chain restaurants normally but it's cold, chilly, and I've been having a lot of hankering for hot noodles lately and this place has become a frequent visit spot for these long winter days. Plus, they're scattered just about in every popular neighborhood of Seoul and did I mention size upgrades are free?



Udon is the name of the game here at Genroku Udon. A bowl of udon is, as anyone in Korea knows, just as easy to obtain as walking down to one's nearest convenience store and picking up the variety of instant udon brands on the shelf. But Genroku prides itself on its deep and flavorful soup which they boil together using premium ingredients like Korean anchovies, dried mackerel, dried skipjack (aka bonito), and other good stuff. You wouldn't know it though as there's not a hint of fishiness in the broth at all. Just good, deep, udon broth.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

First, the interior. Though Genroku is a chain, the inner layout is pretty much the same with a Japanese-esque vibe to it. Very much casual and chill and usually found in popular neighborhoods making them frequented by couples and friends.



You can order as udon or soba with the basic three varieties being the jidori, nikku, katsune which are roughly the equivalent of chicken, beef, and tofu based.

7K for the jidori or nikku udon, 6K for the kitsune, and 8K. If you order soba instead, just add 1K. They also have a cold udon and cold soba which are 6 and 7K respectively.

Children are also covered with the kids set for kids under 8 years old and includes a milder kitsune udon, yogurt, and gomoku rice (mixed rice). The rice you can substitue for some inari (stuffed tofu pouches.

The gomoku rice and inari you can also order as side menus for 2.5K each.

There's evena lunch combo in which you can get a bit of the gomoku rice or an inari for free with your udon order.


Sounds good enough already with premium ingredients and decent prices, but that's when Genroku really drives in the value of their dishes by allowing you to order your noodles in a regular, large, or extra large serving size and for no additional cost. Even if you order a regular and aren't satisfied with the amount, you can order more noodles, which are also for free.

This is a great gesture on the chain owner's part and will easily satisfy any noodle lovers with a healthy appetite. Be forewarned though, that being greedy will cost you as those who leave leftovers will be fined.

As a noodles lover, I've paid visits to several Genroku Udons when I've been in the mood and I can attest for the overall quality and value. Pictured below are the nikku (beef) and kitsune (tofu) in large sizes.



You can tell after your first sip that the broth isn't your usual fast-food udon broth. I mentioned they use dried markerel, anchovies and some 3 or 4 other dried ingredients to make a flavor that's not easily recreated at home. To this umami-rich broth, they fire-to-order ingredients like leeks. The charred leeks really adds a great dimension to the deep broth along with the generous amount of black pepper. The noodles are made using high quality flour and Korean salt that has been dry aged for 3 years for a deeper, cleaner flavor. The noodle base itself goes through a twice-resting period before it's extracted using a Yamato noodle press which apparently is a highly regarded one in the restaurant industry. What results are plump noodles that definitely are not the ones you pick up at the store in the frozen foods section. 

The nikku udon has a bit of a sweeter edge so I personally favor the jidori or kitsune. The kitsune should be ok for pescatarian vegetarians but not vegans as they use fish for their soup base. My only complaint about the jidori being that they seem to use a lot of white meat which is sometimes overcooked that it's a bit tough to eat. 

Still, if you remember the pride and joy of the chain is their homemade noodles and broth, you can't deny they're good.





Look at the char on the leeks!


Of the two sides, the gomoku rice is my favorite as the lightly seasoned rice has bits of mushrooms, lotus roots, carrot, burdock, and other goodies. I'm a sucker for these kinds of healthy and simple rice, pilafs, etc dishes but I know it's not for everyone. The other option, inari or stuffed tofu pouches, is simple and decent enough but a little sweet for my taste.




Final Thoughts:
At 8K a bowl for the most expensive option, the noodle dishes at Genroku Udon are a fantastic value especially when considering the amount of labor and time that goes into dishes like their deep udon soup base and ingredients like grilled-to-order leeks. But the value doesn't stop there as they even have lunch sets and the option to upgrade for free. 


Address: 
서울시 종로구 종로2가 84-3 2층
84-3, 2nd Floor, Jongno 2-ga, Jongno-gu, Seoul, Korea


There are several branches including in Hongdae, Myeongdong, Gangnam, Sinsa, and more. The one in Jongno is easy to get- just come out exit four of Jonggak Station and walk straight for about 120 meters. You'll see Genroku Udon on the 2nd floor. 

Branches also exists around Korea including Songdo, Ilsan, Daejeon, Busan, etc.

Telephone: 
02-725-8545 (Jongno branch)

Website:
http://www.genrokuudon.com/index.html

Parking: 
N/A

Alcohol: 
N/A

Tip: 
As mentioned, most offer a lunch combo in which they throw in a mixed rice or tofu rice for free with your meal but this is only offered on weekdays.

They also offer a children set with includes a small kitsune udon, the mixed rice, and a small yakult drink for 5K. This set is only offered for kids up to ages 8.

Besides the many branches around Seoul, they also now have branches in Suwon, Songdo (Incheon), Daejeon, Busan, and more.
Click on http://www.genrokuudon.com/sub3.html for a full list of all the branches (in Korean).