Autumn of 2014 saw my siblings and I making our annual holiday trip with our Mum; this time to Japan, starting off in Kyoto, a favourite city of mine and one that’s filled with hidden gems.
A must-do here is a leisurely stroll through the Higashiyama-ku district, down a path that will take you to Kiyomizu Temple, one of Kyoto’s most famous sights, along with other attractions like Sanjusangendo Hall.
A cobbled-stone path leads through the area’s most charming neighbourhood, littered with shops selling souvenirs, knickknacks and snacks – look out for little restaurants tucked down shaded alleys.
It’s not uncommon to see immaculately-coiffed women in kimonos toddling down the beautifully manicured streets; a real-life disneyland. My favourite past-time here is sampling all the Japanese snacks that’s thrust upon you as you wander along.
At the end of the walk, a classical Japanese house awaits you. Home to a branch of Omen Udon, a Kyoto chain dishing out inexpensive home-style lunch, the specialty udon is one of the best deal in town.
The decor evokes nostalgic atmosphere of an old Japanese inn rendered with a modern touch for comfort; there are tatami rooms for those that insist on tradition. Cutlery are gorgeously designed and food is so artily presented that despite your hunger, you loathe to mess up the zenness.
The udon is served either cold or with hot soup, with various condiments to add to taste. The udon is cooked perfectly – firm, chewy and silkily smooth, made for slurping indulgence. The soup base is tasty yet light enough to allow the star to shine. For me, there are few comfort foods that can beat a piping hot bowl of noodles.
Side dishes of tempura and tofu, a common food in this temple precinct, are available to go with the udon, not that they are needed.
An array of spices are on hand to add to taste if heat for the palate is desired.
Omen is indeed a lovely oasis for that brief respite from the not-too-far maddening crowd. I love that Japan is one of those rare places where you can easily stumble upon simple traditional eateries that can elevate such a humble meal into an exquisite dining experience.