205 Grand Street
Brooklyn, NY 11211
Contact | 718.599.6161
Samurai Mama is a peculiar udon tavern in Brooklyn. The food is legitimately authentic and the atmosphere rustic, finding an authoritative middle ground for a Japanese restaurant in the heart of Williamsburg.
But I said peculiar because perhaps part of its very laid-back vibe contributed to quirks in service.
We went for Jay’s birthday on a wintry Monday afternoon–a perfect day for a hot bowl of noodles. It was the day after New Year’s so we called, but to no avail, to check whether they were open for business. Luckily their Facebook page had holiday hours listed.
We arrived a little after noon and there were two parties already in line (a line which is mostly outdoors). The first couple said they had been waiting for 15 minutes without any staff member acknowledging them. They held out for another awkward ten minutes before bailing. It was pretty off-putting watching 3-4 other parties leave, but having no idea why the guests in line weren’t being seated, or even spoken to.
Strangely, soon after the initial couple left, service seemed to flow much better, with the party of three in front of us seated quickly and then I being asked what area we would prefer.
The restaurant consists of one large communal table, a couple of booths to the side and three more tables near the front. We were lucky enough to get one corner of the communal table, which they do a good job of not packing too tightly.
Things were pointing up from there, with a surprisingly bold spicy beef bukkake udon. A bowl of fresh udon topped with a heap of minced beef and translucent poached egg is served with a side of refreshing broth. The beef steals the show, which is saying a lot considering the top-notch quality of their homemade noodles and lovely broth.
Udon soups are by far their forte, and ordering items off their sushi menu seems almost necessary. In fact, the tuna taco (sashimi over rice enveloped in seaweed sheets) felt rather uninspired.
The udon here, set within its dim tavern-like space, makes Samurai Mama nothing short of a true Japanese transplant–food-wise. But its aura of mystery seeps into its service in a strange way, so know you’re going for the noodles and little else.