Donburi literally means “bowl”, it categorizes any Japanese rice dish consisting of seafood, meat, or vegetables; served in a bowl.
It was 11pm and we were hungry. There isn’t much around our little neighbourhood of Yoyogi Hachiman, that is if you are looking for more than convenient store eats. So a train ride to the larger train station of Shinjuku was are best bet for late night eats. We were running against the clock, looking for what we wanted at places that were actually open, with the last train home leaving at 12:55pm. Our criteria: warm food, at a descent price, serving something “safe”. We would be taking a plane ride back to Vancouver tomorrow, and the last thing we needed were upset stomachs. So with our list of “needs” cutting our options in half, the hunt began. Sadly majority of the places we considered were closing their doors or had past their last call. That is until we stumbled on this 24 hour style diner, the first restaurant opened for 24 hours that I have seen, since I arrived two weeks ago.
The setting was a bar surrounding a work station manned by one employee. Looking around it wasn’t the cleanest of conditions, but given that things were running non stop, it was sort of accounted for. Though I couldn’t help but think of the hidden kitchen in the back, how did that fare? Though I had to push that thought out of my head, in order to be able to enjoy my meal.
The menu resembled those of other diners that we have visited in the past: the usual bowls of rice and noodles with an assortment if meat and sides. I was most drawn in by the individual hot pot served over a flame, only to learn that it was only available until early evening.
So instead I went with a visually appealing chicken and mayo rice dish. With the option of having it with or without an egg. When a choice is given, I always go for egg when it accompanies mayonnaise. A runny egg yolk and creamy mayo are always a winning combination, when served over rice.
My meal came with two extra parts that I did not expect. A whole egg in a bowl and a metal contraption over another bowl. Common sense and a reflective look over the menu stated that I was to crack the egg over the metal scoop to separate yolk from white, then pour yolk over my chicken dish, as it was in the photo. In hind sight I could have used an explanation and a wet wipe during this cracking process. It was messy and I felt clumsy about it. Though I did like having an interactive element with my meal. Given the deep yellow to orange of the yolk and the thickness of it, I don’t think this was just an ordinary egg. Unless Japanese chicken lay such eggs. Either way it was a great addition to the shredded seaweed on rice. The egg gave the rice extra moisture, and together with the mayonnaise and teriyaki sauce it made for a sweet and creamy bite. The chicken was tender, but I wished for more, for a better meat to rice ratio. There was also a yolky after taste that lingered.
My partner got the pork bowl set meal with miso soup and a corn and lettuce salad.
The miso soup came with more than one shred of seaweed (like it often does in Vancouver) and plenty of dried tofu chunks. Other than that it was pretty standard.
The corn salad was filler, nutrition- less cabbage and corn kernels from a tin. We ended up adding the corn to rice and discarding the rest.
The pork was cut into large sheets, it made eating a task that required teeth and jaw to shred into smaller bites. Other than that it was a pretty standard dish. Hard to mess up stewed teriyaki pork over steamed rice.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – No.
This one was pretty simple and straightforward. A good, every day kind of meal, open and available at the times that work for you. You get your food quick, you eat quick, pay quick, then leave to continue on with your day quick. Don’t deny your cravings.