I have nothing against noodle joints. In fact, after a few days of heavy eating, a plate of cold soba noodles is often the only thing I crave if I’m still on the road. But I don’t always go out of my way to check out a noodle restaurant.
And then I heard about Omen.
Omen is what you night consider an upscale noodle joint. The branch I went to near the Silver Pavilion (there are three Omen restaurants total in Kyoto) was as cozy as any izakaya – a tatami section with low tables and a long bar of burnished wood that allows a glimpse of the chefs at work.
At Omen, although the menu has a fair amount of choice, the smart thing to do is order the noodles. You’ll be served a bowl of thick udon – hot or cold, depending on your preference – accompanied by a bowl of dipping sauce called tsuyu. The most attractive part of the meal, however, is the plate of fresh Kyoto vegetables that you can add to your bowl. I recognized at least scallions, daikon, eggplant, burdock root and a whole mess of greens that I couldn’t name but was very willing to eat. I added these to my dipping sauce, sprinkled in some sesame seeds and dipped my noodles into the lot. Perfection.
Omen is a great place to come for a cooling meal in the summer, but if you happen to be in Kyoto in the colder months, just order the warm noodles and you won’t be disappointed. Omen is a popular place no matter the season, so if you’re here on a weekend, a reservation is advisable.
Omen has a website but you’ll have to use an online translator or, better yet, a Japanese speaker, to help you out. The phone number is prominently listed.