With all the talk nowadays about diversity this and multiculturalism that, people usually forget that such buzz words are old hat in Fountain Valley. The city is currently experiencing a Turkish restaurant boom, features some of the county's few Armenian eateries, hosts a chunk of Little Saigon, and has more than a few good Latino restaurants. Ease with ethnic groups is in the city's DNA: Fountain Valley was essentially founded by Japanese farmers, whose sons became World War II heroes (Kazuo Masuda), the first Japanese-American mayor of a mainland American city (James Kanno), and the first Japanese-American California Supreme Court justice (the Honorable Stephen Tamura). And it's that legacy that has always made the city the capital of Japanese eating in OC.
Sorry, Costa Mesa: From ramen shops to izakayas to Japanese-American sushi bars to fusion places such as Samurai Burrito, teriyaki shops and more, Fountain Valley brings it. For the past couple of years, one of the more favored places has been O Udon. Its kitchen staff hand-make the Second City of Japanese noodles and prepare them at least 14 ways, all offered hot or cold, all delicious. Plum udon is the simplest yet also one of the best: tart and sharp and sinus-clearing when hot, refreshing when cold. Oroshi features grated Japanese radish and a bunch of other veggies, all prepared like a bento box. Get shrimp tempura udon hot, and the crispy skin melts into the broth, adding another layer of umami. Order the mac and cheese cold, and you have a far better meeting of Italy and Japan than the original Iron Chef could've ever hoped for.
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What's best about O Udon, though, is that it's always debuting new menus and specials, just for the hell of it. They now have an onigiri list, the rice cakes all delicately wrapped in seaweed yet bulky enough to smash a peanut. The takoyaki resembles a living diaroma with its pulsing bonito flakes yet tastes all-American with the copious amount of teriyaki sauce and mayonnaise. And dessert should always be the pudding (playfully spelled "Puring" on the paper on the wall that advertises it). Go quick: Only 20 purings and a set amount of udon are made per day.
O Udon, 17870 Newhope St., Fountain Valley, (714) 427-0482.