4-10 October 2013 #676

Japanese Noodle Kitchen


Japanese Noodle Kitchen’s bright, airy, and modern dining room is a welcome surprise: outside is the Dhobighat stretch of Ring Road, all chaos and cacophony, dust and debris. The staff may seem slightly overburdened, carrying out multiple duties at once, but the slightly manic lunchtime service doesn’t detract from this venue’s food, ambience, or its welcome presence in a location not normally known for high quality, low cost cuisine.


The restaurant closes at five, making the lunch rush the restaurant’s main source of business. Indeed, the hall was nearly at capacity at the time of our visit—demonstrating the interest owner Yuko Matsui’s (pic, above) bowls of fresh udon noodles have generated among his predominantly Korean clientele.

Diners wanting to eat out in this price range—a very filling lunch for three came in at under Rs 900—will be used to Kathmandu’s multicuisine eateries, with bewilderingly extensive menus and dishes that bear only a passing resemblance to their billing.

What’s less common is the concept of simple, authentic food cooked sincerely and well, by chefs who know the component parts inside and out. JNK (as reads the restaurants signage, hanging from an otherwise anonymous commercial property) offers such an experience: fresh, fast, uncomplicated Japanese dining. And for those of you unfamiliar with Japanese cooking, there’s a handy display in the foyer with photographs of each of the dishes, so you can order with confidence.

Along with cute, handwritten menus, we were given complimentary glasses of iced ‘bhote’ tea with regular refills throughout our meal. First up was a sharing plate of vegetable tempura (Rs 100)—the delicate coating of crispy batter being the only overtly fatty thing we ate—and then looked ahead to our main courses.

As the name suggests, JNK focuses on noodles, whether in ‘dry’, curried dishes, or by adding substance to steaming bowls of broth. The chicken curry option I’d seen delivered at the next table just moments before was unfortunately sold out—it looked fantastic, so definitely one for next time around. The fried chicken udon (Rs 250) was served in a slightly bland tomato sauce and didn’t deliver the kick I’d been hoping for.

My fellow diners were more successful: seaweed udon (Rs 230) and an udon noodle soup with prawn tempura on the side (Rs 320) delivered on the uncomplicated, clean flavours we associate with East Asian dining. All came with a side of kimchi and a range of condiments (powdered and pickled chili, soy sauce, and others) to spice things up a little.

We decided to skip dessert, as the offerings of pancakes and rice cakes seemed slightly underwhelming. Matsui knows his strengths lie in noodle production and has rightly chosen to expend his efforts in that arena. If you’re looking for variety, JNK is definitely not for you. But if you’re looking for something different during your working lunch, in a part of town with few attractive or inspired options—a warm welcome (if they’re not too busy) awaits. CC

How to get there: coming from Jawalakhel, turn right onto Ring Road at Nakhu Dobato and you’ll find Japanese Noodle Kitchen wedged between On the Grill and Kwality Food Café. Both of which, I’m sure, are lovely.