Marugame Monzo makes udon a memorable centerpiece

Sea urchin udon, kakuni pork belly udon and duck nanban udon at Marugame Monzo.
Photo: Mikayla Whitmore

If there’s one man we should credit for bringing cult-worthy Japanese food to the Vegas Valley, it’s Takashi Segawa. The president of Mon Restaurant Group—the same crew that gave us Monta, Kabuto, Sushi Mon and Goyemon—opened Marugame Monzo in January, and for the first time in the group’s history, neither sushi or ramen are involved.

Instead, udon is the star of Monzo’s stellar show. The LA offshoot is the Valley’s first Japanese restaurant specializing primarily in the thick, irresistibly slurpable wheat noodles, and it’s the only spot here serving handmade Sanuki udon, wide and chewy noodles served with the seafood broth dashi.

Though Monzo’s chefs have been trained in Marugame City, Japan, the restaurant bucks tradition across its extensive menu, even adding an Italian twist to some old-school recipes. Monzo also makes a convincing case for eating udon all year long. Its black, wooden bar offers a spectacular view of the kitchen, where you’ll see chefs hand-pulling bowl after bowl of those perfectly springy, house-made noodles.

Start with an order of takoyaki, a popular fried snack of wheat batter, chopped octopus and green onions, which originated in Osaka and resembles decadent doughnut holes. Monzo serves up seven pieces of the fried octopus balls, covered in dried bonito shavings, mayo and sweet takoyaki sauce for a fluffy/crispy, savory/sweet experience. Another must is the fried chicken (karaage), bite-size morsels of salty, succulent and tender chicken deep-fried until golden.

But udon is the real showstopper. Monzo offers an extensive list of hot and cold options, along with, ahem, bukkake udon, a common noodle style presented dry with a side of broth to pour over the dish.

Mad Tiger udon—spicy ground pork, Chinese chives, bonito flakes, a soft-boiled egg and cold broth—strikes a delightful balance. The chilled noodles temper the delicate, sweet heat of the spicy pork for a meal that should be eaten all summer long. Duck Nanban comes with thick, juicy slices of fowl and a healthy amount of udon noodles served in a savory, salty broth for what feels like nature’s perfect fuel.

Remember that Italian fusion? Monzo’s signature udon bowls merge culinary worlds. The sea urchin cream udon, prepared in an uni cream sauce with bits of briny urchin and salmon eggs, is a true uni lover’s dream. Don’t stop there. The udon gratin bakes heavy cream, mozzarella, chicken and onions until a thick cheesy crust forms on top—like a spin on your favorite, comforting mac and cheese.

With so many bold flavors, Marugame Monzo isn’t a place you try just once. Every visit will have you planning a return before you even get out the door.

Marugame Monzo 3889 Spring Mountain Road, 702-202-1177. Monday-Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., 5-11 p.m.

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Leslie Ventura is a staff writer at Las Vegas Weekly and Industry Weekly. She’s picked the brains of rock stars ...

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