Menkoi’s North Main Street location opens Friday

Noodle house features simplified menu of traditional Japanese dishes

Menkoi owner Kazuhiro Sato works in the kitchen prior to a soft opening event | photo by Will Crooks

We have good news and bad news. (We think the good outweighs the bad.)

“No ramen,” says Menkoi Udon & Soba House owner Kazuhiro Sato.

(That’s the bad.)

The good? The noodle restaurant features two different authentic Japanese types of noodles — udon (thick, wheat flour) and soba (skinny, buckwheat) — and they open this Friday at 241-B N. Main St. across from NOMA Square.

For the gluten-conscious, never fear: buckwheat is naturally gluten-free. It’s related to rhubarb. And for the pescatarian crowd, the broth used on all of the noodle dishes is seafood based, unlike the chicken, beef, or pork used in ramen.

Sato describes the difference between the two kinds of noodles: Udon is thick and filling, while soba is thinner, fresher, and more delicate. “Very healthy,” he says.

Currently, the noodles are not made in-house, but they hope to get to that point, says manager Daniel Unpingco, who is originally from Guam but lived in Columbia for 10 years and just moved to Greenville. He has worked at the Sato’s Columbia and Woodruff Road noodle houses for several years.

photos by Will Crooks

The shotgun-style restaurant features a small cafeteria-style bar where you’ll be able to pick up your appetizers such as rice ball “Onigiri” (rice balls stuffed with salmon, bonito, or pickled plum), Inari (sushi rice stuffed in marinated fried tofu); edamame; gyoza (ground pork and vegetable dumplings); and shumai (steamed shrimp dumplings). Then, you’ll round the corner to the register to order your noodle or rice bowls, which will be brought to the table.

This is the Sato family’s first restaurant of their five (in Charleston, Columbia, and Greenville) to feature traditional Japanese noodles. Sato Steakhouse in Columbia includes Japanese noodles on its menu, but it isn’t a mainstay.

“We simplified it here,” says Unpingco.

All of the noodle dishes begin with the same base of noodles and broth, and add-ons include kitsune (fried bean curd), kake (traditional fish cake), pork, beef, or seafood (shrimp, squid, mussels, and octopus). Prices range from $4.25 to $8.50.

Menkoi is open seven days a week, 11 a.m.–11 p.m.

Fun fact: “Menkoi” means “the love of noodles.”


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