Zen On is one of Poznań’s many Japanese restaurants. But when you think about Japanese cuisine, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? Probably sushi right? Well, have you ever heard about udon? If yes, just keep on reading to find the best drum to come by. If not, let us introduce you these pliable noodles to discover what more Japanese cuisine has to offer.

Zen On interior design. Photo: Kasia Solarz.

Zen On

While in Poznań head straight to the city center, right next to Rondo Kaponiera and in the shadow of the iconic Bałtyk building, there’s Zen On – the only restaurant in the city specializing in Japanese udon noodles. So there we were on a hot summer evening, pretty thirsty we first asked our server Agata for some drink recommendations.

Ginga Kogen Japanese beer. Photo: Kasia Solarz.

Vincent ordered a genuine Japanese Ginga Kogen beer for and I had the Zen On lemonade. The beer is worth trying — it’s light, not too sweet, different than what you can normally find in the shops. The lemonade was a bull’s eye – the homemade blend of green tea and mango tea, with a slice of orange, was nicely refreshing. But the best was yet to come.

The menu is short, which is pretty helpful with making up your mind, so after little consultation with Agata, we made our choices. I chose the place’s specialty – Kake udon with a traditional bonito tuna along with karaage chicken and burned cabbage. Vincent chose the Shoyu sesame ramen with slow-cooked pork neck, egg sous-vide, radish, nori, and sesame.

Jan Kondratowicz

In the meantime, we spoke to Zen On owner, Jan Kondratowicz. Zen On was the first restaurant in Poznań to specialize in the Japanese noodles. Kondratowicz’s, mission is to educate people about udon. “Ramen,” he said, “was the first step [toward acceptance] in Poland, people now know that it can be filling… Udon is the next one, especially in Poznań as it’s a new thing here.”

Initially, some guests expected to find sushi at Zen On, and were surprised to only find soup. Unlike the lighter European first course, however, Udon is the focal point of the meal.

All the noodles are handmade on site from importehttps://streetwise.pl/files/2018/07/05/d japanese flour. he imported a special machine that mixes and rolls out udon and ramen. [we’re] the first restaurant in poznań that makes the udon fresh on the spot every day,” said Jan.

Kake Udon and Shoyu Ramen. Photo: Kasia Solarz

As a chef, Kondratowicz is inspired by the simplicity and precision of Japanese cuisine. He’s a certified udon craftsman — his certificate is proudly displayed on the wall. He has spent time in Tokyo to perfect his craft and also research the Tokyo ramen shops. He said his course was intense — 10-12 hours per day perfecting his technique.

However, Jan is not a purist. He admits that he adds some European tweaks to the dishes. “The noodles themselves are very authentic,” said Jan. However, he thinks people may get bored with the somewhat strict Japanese simplicity. “We decided to make it a bit more complex and keep changing the menu once every few months to make it interesting… We like both experimenting and sticking to tradition as well.”

Kake Udon. Photo: Kasia Solarz.

Kake Udon

The bowls of noodles (pretty hearty!) came served on trays along with a Chinese soup spoon and chopsticks — a fully Asian experience. So let’s start with the Kake udon. From the very first nibble, one has no doubt that the noodles are freshly made. Pliable and delicate, you just start to love them from the very moment you taste them. The broth is thin and packed with bonito flavor, but savory, so if you are not the biggest fan of salty dishes, try some other options. The karaage chicken was also packed with flavor, as the meat was very juicy and soft thanks to the marinade (ginger, garlic, mirin and a little bit of soy sauce). Though it’s still crispy outside due to the starch coating.

Shoyu Sesame Ramen. Photo: Kasia Solarz.

Shoyu Sesame Ramen

The springiness of ramen noodles also left no doubt in our minds about their high quality. The broth here was semi-dense and had an abundant sesame aroma. Slowly cooked pork neck had a nice juicy taste and along with perfectly done sous-vide egg was a great add-on to the noodles and broth. Let’s be honest – the noodles feast left us with happy faces and nicely full bellies.

“Dinasaur Egg” Matcha Green Tea Ice Cream. Photo: Kasia Solarz.

Matcha Ice Cream

Agata came round again as asked, “Do you fancy a dessert? Let me recommend our delicious homemade matcha ice cream.” Well, everyone has a spare dessert stomach, right? She returned after a couple of minutes quipping, “here’s your dino egg.” The joke is on point as this generously proportioned green scoop resembled one. Don’t expect some weird tastes though!

To be frank, this was the best matcha ice cream we’ve had so far. The great thing is that it was not too sweet and not too bitter either (too much matcha can ruin it), just perfectly balanced. Not to mention the sesame powder and crunchy chocolate – It was truly a flawless combination of flavors.

Zen On front. Photo: Kasia Solarz

A Must-Visit Spot

Without a doubt, Zen On takes a place on Poznań’s culinary map. Udon noodles are crafted to perfection, but that’s not the only available type of a dish there. You can also try some other delicacies such as salads or marinated meat – all with an Asian twist. Hence, it’s a great place for a meet up of noodle-lovers as well as those who are not into it that much yet. Yet is a key word here – perhaps you’ll change your mind once you’ve tried a steaming bowl of broth and noodles at Zen On

Apart from having a different menu recurrently, there is a lunch offer which changes every week. Moreover, everyone can find something. Meat, fresh seafood, and vegetarian options are available. In a nutshell, you can never get bored, we won’t!

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Franco-Polish couple who met in Taiwan. We’re passionate about traveling the world and tasting its delicacies. Vincent settled in Poznań in 2017, Kasia started her studies here years ago. Currently, we explore together what the city has to offer. Two different personalities but the same love for great food which we want to share with you!