Despite their empty stomachs, the diners lining up outside of Taro San Japanese Noodle Bar were entirely peaceable. On a mild winter night at the Stanford Shopping Center, anticipation for a homemade bowl of udon outweighed any grumblings about the wait time.

When the hostess greeted and then seated us at the counter, she immediately exclaimed that they made their own noodles in-house. That sense of DIY kitchen craftiness isn’t immediately apparent in the restaurant’s decor. Blond wood beams warm up cool blue and white tiles. It’s a familiar mid-century modern aesthetic, lightened up with 21st century materials and modalities.

In a nod to the future of eating out, there’s a digital tablet at every seating place. The first concern that comes to mind with this setup is, “Who’s paying attention to the details of our order?” At Taro San, the answer is a comforting, “Everybody.”

Three different servers brought our dishes to the table. Each time we had a request for something offline—spoons or an extra plate—they were all helpful. One waiter in particular sounded genuinely interested in what we thought of our meal. Though you’d think otherwise, the presence of an e-menu didn’t eliminate those kinds of casual interactions. And, for a restaurant that’s still in its soft opening phase, the owners had already worked out an efficient system of receiving orders and getting them out to the dining room.

With nearly a dozen items to choose from on the list of appetizers, we started with roasted Brussels sprouts ($7) and a crab sunomono salad ($7). Instead of a tangy balsamic vinegar that many chefs use to sauté their sprouts, here the miso glaze rendered them light and crisp. The miso didn’t mask the leafy flavor of the sprouts themselves. The dish included candied bacon and edamame crisps that offered an unexpected crunch somewhere between popcorn and corn nuts. Sometimes a sunomono or cucumber salad can look wilted and weighted down with sogginess. That wasn’t the case with this version. The chef had cleverly arranged the wakame seaweed and slivers of cucumber to cover the white and red-edged pieces of crab meat. Each small stack of greens contained the pleasingly pungent taste of vinegar, sugar, salt and soy sauce.

Despite being on the “to share” section of the menu, the seared salmon toro sashimi ($15) and chicken karaage ($9) are both substantial enough to (nearly) qualify as entrees. Seven pieces of salmon cut on the diagonal are served on a long plate, beautifully arranged with thin slices of jalapeño, stems of watercress and little dollops of ikura, or red caviar. The seared fish takes on two different shades of pink. Each morsel is a refreshing, bright bite. But the boneless pieces of chicken karaage were fried to perfection. The chef, Jerome Ito, doesn’t fall into the easy trap of saturating the fry with sauce. You can taste delicate hints of it, but he doesn’t let it get in the way of the flavor of the chicken or the breading.

From our comfortable vantage point, there wasn’t ever a lull in the ferrying of dishes out to tables, and it took a while for a bowl of tori paitan udon ($16) to arrive. As of last month, you could choose from four types of udon. Niku (beef rib eye), the tori paitan udon (chicken in a creamy broth), vegan or duck tsukemen (cold ramen dipped in a hot fish broth). When one of the servers did deliver our bowl, the soup was steaming and flecked with black sesame seeds. In case you’ve been suffering from a chicken deficit, this bowl of udon is about as chicken-y as you can get. Slices of roasted white meat swim in the golden broth while a chicken meatball, or tsukune, skewer is served on top. Vegetables do make an appearance—including enoki mushrooms and baby bok choy—but they’re minor players in this chicken fantasia.

When we’d finished our meal about an hour after taking our seats, the hopeful faces in line had changed, but the length of it had not. Everyone there seemed to know what was ahead of them: a comforting bowl of soup, homemade noodles and plates of fried chicken cooked to satisfy the fussiest of palates.

Taro San Japanese Noodle Bar
717 Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto