Budget Beat

Cherryblossom Noodle Café: Lunch $10 & Under

When we heard about the lunch specials at Cherryblossom Noodle Café, we had to check it out. Nearly 20 options for less than $10 each on weekdays? Yes please.

Allow yourself some time if you're planning to check this out on your next lunch break: It's a full-service, sit-down place.

While it was busy on our recent visit, it wasn't swamped. We were seated immediately, but it took a good 15 minutes for our food to arrive after we'd placed our order. Just a word to the wise for those with short lunch breaks...

The lunch specials are definitely the way to go, offering combination plates that would normally run you somewhere in the ball park of 15 bucks for half that. As vegetarians, we were limited to the Udon Combo Special because all the others included meat and it's a no-substitution deal (although many of the tofu dishes on the menu are less than $10 as well).

We order the Vege-Ten Udon with Inari sushi, and wait. Patiently.

The sushi comes first: Inari sushi is rice-stuffed tofu pockets, and our combo comes with three pieces. They're a little sweet and slightly bland but a good start to a meal nonetheless. If you're a meat eater you could also opt for the more familiar California roll.

Our Vege-Ten Udon arrives piping hot with tempura-battered pieces of acorn squash, cauliflower, sweet potatoes and eggplant, as well as cooked spinach and the thick wheat-based Udon noodles.

This is just what the doctor ordered. The tempura is crispy, the veggies are obviously fresh, and the broth slides down our sore throat like the chicken noodle soup mom used to make but we no longer eat. Talk about an answer to traditional Western medicine.

We had one problem with this dish: The over-sized wooden spoon that came with our meal was more like a ladle, because they had run out of clean traditional Japanese soup spoons and our waiter had removed our other silverware. This made it particularly difficult to eat the large vegetable slices and slippery over-sized noodles. And during our effort, the tempura went a little soggy. Oh well, it's all the same in the end, right?

One last surprise was the Spanish flowing from the open kitchen. We thought this was a Japanese noodle café, no? As long as the language doesn't compromise the traditional flavors, we're happy.

Cherryblossom Noodle Café
914 E. Camelback Rd.
Central Phoenix

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Hannah E Williams