In a prefecture where 800 udon shops serve a population of only one million people, I assumed the last thing Kagawa needed was another udon shop.
I was, therefore, vaguely skeptical when Shinpei Udon opened in the Takamatsu shopping arcade late last year. It wasn't long before I was eating humble udon, though, and Shinpei's has swiftly become a favorite in the Takamatsu area.
While Shinpei's menu does consist mainly of udon, it's more than just an udon shop, with an atmosphere very different to the 'order, slurp, leave' of its peers.
It's a light, airy restaurant, with a relaxed, unhurried feel; you can watch the world go by from the tables near the front of the shop , or sprawl out comfortably on the tatami at the back.
It’s a place to sit, chill out, and enjoy the excellent udon at a leisurely pace with a pot of scented tea, or a beer or sake.
Here, friends and regulars seem to be one and the same. The owner, Shinpei, who speaks excellent English, is very friendly, and much of this shop's popularity can be attributed to his welcoming smile and generosity.
The udon itself is made twice daily at the front of the shop, where a window onto the shopping arcade lets passers-by have a peek at the process, or have a chat to Shin while he works.
All udon is not created equal, and, even in Kagawa where the competition is high, these are some of the best noodles around.
The recommendation is anything with the tempura; I like the tempura udon (¥650), a pile of light, crispy tempura served with a big bowl of kake udon, or the tempura bukake with the stronger flavoured broth (also (¥650). Other popular dishes are the curry udon, which is surprisingly spicy, and the shippoku udon.
Go in for lunch (11am-3pm) or dinner (5:30pm-9pm), and enjoy the best of what Takamatsu has to offer. If you aren't an udon lover when you walk in, you will be when you leave.