I’ve been a long-standing fan of Fou Fow since they opened their first ramen restaurant in Amsterdam on the Elandsgracht back in 2014. I was even happier when they opened a second branch on Van Woustraat, which happens to be just over the river from my house. So I was suitably intrigued when I discovered they’d opened an udon restaurant on Prinsengracht, and it didn’t take long before I showed up and put my name on the waiting list by the door. (Because, this being Amsterdam, the place was already packed on a Wednesday evening having only been open for a few weeks.)
First impressions were that they probably need to do a bit of work on the ventilation: the restaurant was roasting hot (even on one of the cooler days we’ve had this summer) and we came out with clothes smelling like a deep-fat fryer. But that’s probably because of the various tempura they’ve got on the menu, plus the steaming vats of broth that go into every udon dish.
We tried the basic tempura (€5.50), which was a set of four vegetables battered and fried. The tempura batter was light and crispy, and the veggies well cooked – a simple dish, well executed.
Moving onto the main event, I couldn’t resist ordering the “Rayu Udon” (€14.50) because it had a little chilli symbol next to it and we all know how addicted I am to everything spicy. From what I could make out, the dish comprised the regular “classic” broth, but then with spicy oil added – plus of course the udon: chunky wheat noodles that stick to your ribs. Toppings included karaage chicken (Japanese fried chicken), mizuna (a type of Asian greens), seaweed strips and tempura crumbs. The chicken was delicious (because who can go wrong with fried chicken?) and I appreciated the freshness of the greens that worked whether you ate them raw or stirred them into the broth until wilted. But the tempura crumbs quickly went soggy, and the broth… well, it’s no ramen broth. It’s much lighter, for a start – think dashi with just a touch of soy sauce. And I’m sure any udon aficionado will tell me that’s precisely the point – it’s not ramen. But personally, I prefer my broth thicker and my noodles thinner. In a battle of udon vs. ramen, I’m Team Ramen.
At least, I am for now. As with all things food-related (in fact, all things in general), there’s undoubtedly a learning curve of which I’m not yet aware. I’ve eaten only two or three bowls of udon in my life and probably a hundred bowls of ramen. It may be that I come to appreciate the simpler broth more with every bowl, or it may be that there’s another type of udon broth out there that I’d prefer, or even another udon restaurant. As is often my conclusion in situations like these, more research is needed…