Omen – Udon, Kyoto Veggies, Ground Sesame 名代おめん
Omen is best known for it’s udon noodle dishes. Omen has three restaurants in Kyoto and even one in New York City. We review the main restaurant near Ginkakuji (Silver Pavilion) and The Philosopher’s Path.
men means ‘noodle’, o is an honorific added to nouns (o-cha, o-sake, o-sushi).
Omen’s signature dish is called ‘omen’. It consists of a bowl of udon noodles (available hot or cold), a bowl of tsuyu (soup-like tare for dipping noodles) and a beautiful assortment of seasonal Kyoto vegetables that are either boiled or pickled. These include the ubiquitous daikon, gobo (burdock root), eggplant, seasonal greens (mizuna), ginger, scallions and Chinese white cabbage. Also, a heaping bowl of coarsely ground sesame is on every table.
The ground sesame is added to the tsuyu as well as the vegetables. The noodles, a mouthful portion at a time are picked up from the wooden plate dropped into the tsuyu, mixed around a bit and and scooped up with some veggies and sesame and brought to the mouth.
This is an excellent, excellent dish. The tsuyu is very sophisticated in composition with a deep and pungent smoky flavor. This taste comes mainly from the high quality of the dried bonito (katsuobushi) that is used. This dish is a must try if you like Japanese noodle dishes and is a great for folks who don’t eat meat (vegans beware, the tsuyu is fish based).
Omen has a number of ippin ryori dishes and seasonal dishes that are always excellent. Be sure to give them a try or make a whole meal of them!
We had the tori no sansho yaki, which features several bite sized pieces of perfectly grilled chicken (marinated in sweet white Kyoto miso) with sasho on the side. Sansho is a pepper-like spice common in many Asian cuisines. In China, the mature seed is Sichuan Pepper, in Japan it is often made from the leaf. Sansho has a very astringent taste and a little goes a long way. Sansho is often sprinkled on udon and soba.
Omen’s agedashi tofu, is a real treat too. The dashi itself sets it apart from the normal fair.
Omen also has several rice dishes that are made with varieties of pre-modern rice and other grains that Japanese ate hundreds of years ago. There are very healthy and tasty.
One that we ordered was the jyako meishi. Jyako is tiny fish, cooked in shoyu and mirin (sweet cooking wine) and flavored with various spices such as sansho. Jyako is simply sprinkled on rice. Served with soup and pickled vegetables, this is another treat. Even with this simple fare, Omen distinguishes itself from the pack.
[Really sorry about these horrible photos! We had digital camera memory card failure and had to use Paku's ancient cellphone to shoot the pictures. We will try to retake photos in the near future.]
Omen – boiled and pickled vegetable platter
Omen – sesame, tsuyu, udon and veggies
Agedashi Tofu (deep-fried tofu in dashi soup)
Ippin ryori — Tori no Sansho Yaki
Jyako Meishi (Sasho spiced tiny dried fish) on rice with soup and pickled vegetables
English menu is excellent and updated monthly
It seems that there is always someone on staff that can speak some English