Father's Day is June 16

We all have those comfort dishes that are close to our heart, and transport us back to childhood when biting into whatever it may be. For me, a bowl of chicken udon from Gombei always makes me tear up with nostalgia.

Originally a little diner-style eatery in San Jose's Japantown, Gombei has been a Bay Area institution since the 80s. Always bustling during lunch, the Akabori's would walk in and were warmly welcomed by the staff. It was considered a treat to come here, so my brother and I were always on our best behavior.

Gombei served hiyayakko (cold tofu) and ohitashi (blanched spinach) swimming in a dashi soy sauce, and they always had specials like kaki fry (fried oysters) and sashimi teishoku (sashimi set). It was a real mom-and-pop joint, where everyone knew your name. We even knew the name of the bussers. (These days, you can't even call them "bussers". Ha).

At Gombei, I ordered the chicken udon. It would arrive steaming, and always the same way on a tray, with the bowl sitting on a bamboo mat. The savory sweet broth and run-of-the-mill udon noodles were topped with a oyako-don style mesh of egg, chicken and scallions. Perhaps it was here that I learned that there were different variations of making the same dish. Hideko never made udon this way! In my eyes, she couldn't make it this way -- this is what made Gombei's udon so special, and worth coming back for.

When I walked into one of their newer locations recently, I was pleasantly surprised that the chicken udon was just as I had remembered it. I hadn't been there in 10 years, but the dish is served exactly the same, and the recipe has not changed one bit. After one bite, I was indeed transported back to my childhood -- sitting on those plastic swivel chairs on the counter, my dad catching up with the owner, and me, waiting patiently for my chicken udon.