ZEN Japanese restaurant, a washoku joint in Markham, is one of the restaurants that have led the sushi and washoku scene in Toronto. Their sushi is made of fresh fish from Japan, along with rice, vinegar and sushi chosen with the utmost dedication. Created by the master who received years of training in Japan, the “kappo” style washoku here has impressed many fans.
New store specializing in Sanuki Udon
ZEN, the store which has dedicated much time and effort to using ingredients and flavours from Japan, has now created a restaurant dedicated to udon.
Seiichi Kashiwabara, the owner, had planned on opening an udon joint for many years with the thought of making quality Japanese food more accessible. “What’s at the core of everything, including the store that we already have in Markham, is to stay true to the foods we serve. I’ve consistently dedicated my time and effort into making delicious food, and I would like to continue doing the same with this new store,” says Kashiwabara.
Noodles made of wheat from the city of Sanuki
The wheat, which serves as the core of their noodles, is imported directly from Sanuki city in Kagawa, the true home of the udon. The noodles are made by combining this wheat with salt and soft water. Kashiwabara explains how he has attempted multiple times to make udon with wheat from Canada, Australia and Japan.
“I’ve tried wheat from multiple locations, but I felt like the one from Japan had the best flavour and umami, both of which are key to udon. I was also dedicated about choosing water that was soft. In order to serve our udon at the freshest state, we don’t freeze our noodles. We also have an open kitchen, where the customers can see us prepare the food,” says Kashiwabara. He says he is still on his endeavour looking into the best thickness and boiling time for noodles.
“Dashi” made without using any artificial flavours
The other key component that is worthy of attention is their “dashi”, or stock. Made using only natural ingredients, such as dried fish, kelp and bonito flakes, the dashi uses no artificial flavouring. This is perhaps the reason why their stock has many fans. Apparently, the dashi is made using several tens of kilograms of ingredients everyday!
As Kashiwabara explains, “There’s no doubt that our customers here in Canada are becoming more and more health conscious every year. Our store welcomes many Chinese customers, but nowadays many of them know the difference in flavour, especially because many of them have visited Japan and have tried the food there. The fact that we want to keep meeting their expectations is another reason why we make our dashi only using natural ingredients.
The strength lies in the “shokunin”
Many shokunin, or chefs, who have had years of experience and training in the world of washoku, run the restaurant, led by Mr. Sato, the Executive Chef.
“We alter the thickness of the noodles depending on whether it is served hot or cold. Of course, our dashi is made from natural ingredients, but that’s not all that matters. The fact that they are simmered and cooked by the shokunin with top-notch skills and knowledge is what makes our noodles and dashi unlike anything else.”
As soon as you enter the store, the smell of the dashi stimulates your appetite. Many people know that the udon here in Toronto are generally prepared using frozen noodles. Sure, you can enjoy the chewy texture of the udon, but not so much the umami and aroma of the wheat.
On the other hand, those are exactly what characterize the udon noodles here at ZEN. The texture is also one that is characteristic of freshly made noodles. Along with the dashi, the noodles are smooth, making it one satisfying experience.
I recommend the cold udon if you’re here to enjoy the texture of the noodles. The store is already quite popular, with almost 300 people visiting on the weekends. You may have to wait in line at certain times during the day, but if you’re dedicated to the ingredients and flavours just like the chefs, their noodles are definitely worth a try.
ZEN SANUKI UDON
3720 Midland Ave. unit 113-114, Scarborough
Tuesday – Saturday
Lunch 11:30 AM – 2:30 PM
Dinner 5:30 PM – 10:00 PM
Closed Sundays & Mondays
Zen Sanuki Udon
Homemade noodles made from wheat of Sanuki city, Kagawa,
along with “dashi” that uses absolutely no artificial ingredients.
We also have sushi, rice bowls and other dishes.
(Japanese Article: カナダでジャパンクオリティを追求する「ZEN」が新たに自家製生麺とだしにこだわった「讃岐うどん」店をオープン）