Samurai, which occupies the former Shogun, offers authentic Japanese food to the Mammoth crowd
Mammoth Lakes has a new udon restaurant, called Samurai. The restaurant is located in the Sierra Center Mall, in the same unit where Shogun, Mammoth’s first Japanese and Sushi restaurant, previously resided.
Owner Hidetoshi Seike opened his doors in late 2017. He was born in Fukuoka, Japan, and decided to open a new udon restaurant after being convinced to move to Mammoth Lakes by his brother in August, 2017.
The restaurant’s entrees include a variety of udon and soba dishes. Udon are thick noodles made from wheat flour, often served with broth, vegetables, and meat. Samurai’s menu features Tonkotsu Udon, with roasted pork, green onion, fish cake, and bean sprouts, as well as Shrimp Tempura Udon, which replaces the pork with shrimp. Beef and vegetarian options are also available. Seike described udon noodles as being “kind of chewy,” but in a good way.
The menu also features hot soba dishes. Soba noodles are thinner than udon, and are made with buckwheat flour, which gives them a distinct a hearty flavor.
After earning a law degree from Aoyama Gakuin University, Seike lived and worked in Tokyo for nine years, then took a job in Malaysia, working in sales for Three M (the firm that makes Scotch Tape). He determined that Tokyo was too crowded, and working in sales wasn’t ultimately fulfilling. “I was really stressed, all the time,” he reflected.
Seike comes from a family of restaurateurs. His mother is South Korean, and his father is Japanese. He said he had dreamed of owning his own restaurant since being in high school, and that his mother, who taught Korean, had expressed interest in doing the same. One day, she asked him to move to South Korea with her, to start a small restaurant in the country’s second largest city, Pusang.
“We fought. It was hard, but I learned a lot,” said Seike of that experience. Eventually, she became very ill, and they were forced to sell the restaurant and move back to Japan.
Seike attributes his interest in travel and living abroad to his mother, who moved to Japan when she was 20. Last May, he was able to make a trip to Mammoth to visit his brother with the rest of his family, and became enthralled with the Town’s location and culture. “I’d only ever lived in really big cities, so I was a little worried at first. But people are really nice, and I’m happy here,” he said. He hasn’t picked up snowboarding or skiing, but loves trout fishing.
Seike said he chose to serve udon and soba dishes because they are authentically Japanese and have recently grown in popularity in the urban American markets. “When you ask a Japanese person, ‘What is Japanese food?’ they would name sushi, udon, or ramen,” said Seike, who said that at Samurai, they prepare the noodle dishes in the manner in which they would be served in Japan. The dishes are fresh and healthy, and not Americanized.
The menu features appetizers to share in the $4 to $12 range, and entrees in the $10 to $17.50 range. Appetizers include Crab and Spicy Tuna Rolls, Sunomono (a cucumber seaweed salad), and Fried Gyoza, a pan-fried dumpling dish.
His favorite dish on the menu? Samurai Udon, which features seaweed, fried tofu, mushrooms, green onion, dash, and bonita flakes in a homemade fish broth.
Greatest challenge opening a business in Mammoth? Ordering noodles. “Much of our inventory, including our noodles, comes from Japan,” said Seike.
Samurai is open daily from 5-9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 5-9:30 p.m. Friday through Saturday.