Kantstraße 118 — 10625 Berlin

Escape a rainy, bittercold Kantstraße in this mellow, homey cave with it’s lazy, almost eccentric mixture of an bavarian butchers interior and a Muji store. Reminiscent of a Ozu movie, the front row facing the dark streets is best savored alone or with a good friend side-by-side, observing life racing by the wooden frames, fluorescently lit by a paper lanterns. Almost hidden in plain sight is the warm room in the back, where you sit down like in a family of strangers. The menu is a joyful strive through Japanese over-the-counter food culture. You order at the cash register, matter-of-factly; they are used to regular patrons — a variety of Katsu wolfing Charlottengrader blue and white-collars, a kaleidoscope of Asian dwellers, ready for their hasty remedies and the occasional back-street entrepreneur.

Arriving here you don’t know if it is really good or just mediocre — this tension is exciting and leaves you guessing at the tip of your high chair from the very first moment to the first bites. Rest assured now, because it is good. Wooden panels, paper towels — no need for decorating anything because joyous people munching away might as well be the prettiest sight — and very common one here. The Udon Noodle soups might seem bland at first, because one is used to thick, creamy, glutinous Ramen and Phø available at every other place in this city. Udagawa is more refined. The broth is splashing, bony islands afloat, ever deepening colors; it is up to you to dissect the aromas which, although they come drowned and convoluted in a plastic pot, are traceable and offer a complex joy. The noodles are springy and have this grainy bouquet that leaves you, days later, with the urgent desire to head down to your go-to Udon place and … be a little disappointed. The Ramen is a hearty pond of Urviecher. The slices of pork are not the dry conform specimen you are gently served with a smile in Mitte. It is a chewy and nasty (but in the best way) hunk of meat that willfully gives up its form when you poke it, making it just a little more exciting to finally slurp it in.

On a recent Tuesday evening, a Depardieuian character was dining along with his daughter, deliberating the intricacies of everyday school-life on a new school. Full but lofty plates of Kara-age, Sushi and Sashimi lifted spirits and having watched the kitchen personnel move swiftly in unctuous fumes, she consented — “we always choose the best places, it feels special” — and indeed: it does. Welcome to the neighborhood.