So last night I was introduced to the genius that is Gombei.
It's a total find, we (my girlfriend, Rachel, and I) headed over there about a quarter to 7 pm last night. She, a native Palo Altan, has been there numerous times over the past many years. It's cash-only, doesn't take reservations, and is usually always crowded, I was warned. A good sign.
Because we were only two, we didn't have to wait more than a couple of minutes to get a table. The udon was highly recommended to me, but having seen udon in other places I'm often left hungry. I thought about maybe getting an udon and then splitting a plate of teryaki or something as well. Rachel looked at me with befuddlement. Then I checked out the couple sitting to our right who were each enjoying udon in enormous bowls and reconsidered my plan. Each bowl was about eight inches in diameter and about four or five inches tall with udon steaminess and goodness perferating throughout the nearby air.
While I barely had enough time to get a steamy cup of green tea down, we were presented with a chicken udon for me and a shrimp udon for Rachel. Mine had udon noodles, tender chicken, broth, and some scrambled egg on top and Rachel's looked more or less the same. I doused some red pepper flakes (that sorta look like fish food, but smaller) and some soy sauce and off I was.
The udon was hearty, filling, and downright delicious, a perfect meal to warm the body and to prepare us for the 15 minute walk in the cold evening home.
Plus, I noted as we ate, after the udon couple left that a Japanese man who ate alone and cuddled up to some Japanese book that he was reading after he said something short to the waitress in Japanese. He ate with his chopsticks with such precision. Another good sign.
All in all, it was good, hearty, and cheap as good home food should be. We didn't order drinks, the service was fast, the food was plentiful and tasty, and tax and tip for two was $20 even.
I'd definately go back.
Gombei Japanese Restaurant
1438 El Camino Real, Menlo Park, CA 94025