This story is the second among a three-part series. If you haven't read Part-I, read it here.
Koya is known for its udon bowls and communal seating along the bar. The noodles are foot-pressed and can be seen being pulled out of large, steamy containers.
My gaze stopped at the umeboshi (pickled plums) and kitsune (sweet tofu and spring onion) udon. The two men ordered before me. I heard them discussing a beef appetiser, and noodles and broths with the waitress (there was hot udon with hot broth, cold udon with hot broth, cold udon with cold sauce to dip, and cold udon with cold sauce to pour).
“Mushrooms with walnut miso,” came the familiar voice. I was immediately curious and looked for it on the menu. My ego took a small hit; it was the first time a guy had selected food better than me. The dish sounded incredible. I briefly thought I’d stick to my original choice so he wouldn’t think I was hinting at anything, but the udon with mushrooms and walnut miso was just. my. damned. taste. And life teaches you that no boy is more important than udon.
I acted quickly when the waitress turned to me. “Pickled plums. And a kinoko, please.” Yep, I had used the Japanese name for the same bowl.
“Kin-yoko” he repeated to his friend, half turned toward me. I still didn’t try to make conversation.
The waitress brought over my pickled plums a few minutes later. I was very conscious of myself by now because he kept looking my way. I picked up a pair of chopsticks and started to eat.
“What are you eating, if I may ask?” he said, finally.
“Pickled plums. What did you guys get?”
“Just regular udon. Beef. Boring stuff.”
Coming from a man as confident as him, the self-deprecation didn’t feel genuine (and that worked in his favour). I probably registered how confident he was the minute he reacted in an unflustered manner to me mistaking him for a waiter. A friend even confirmed it later when she pointed out that he was different to most people, or at least to those who wrongly find it offensive to be mistaken for waitstaff.
“It’s not boring!” I replied.
He just kept smiling.
“Do you come here often?” I asked.
“Oh, I don’t live here. I used to, but not anymore. Just coming back to an old favourite.”
Goodness, this is definitely turning out to be like the meet-cute on a flight sometime ago, I thought.
“What about you? Do you come here often?” he asked.
“This is my first time here.”
“Oh nice. You live nearby?”
“No.” I couldn’t help smiling. “I used to live here, but I don’t anymore.”
Read Part-III here.