Kita no Donburi -
I visited Kita no Donburi on a day when I wasn’t particularly craving any specific type of food. I was in the neighborhood and it was a restaurant that I haven’t tried before, so I decided to try it.
Walking in, I noticed that it was one of those order-and-pay-first-counter-service-like restaurants. The lineup for ordering was quite long; there were more people in line than there were empty seats in the restaurant. I noticed that most of the people in line were ordering for takeout, which was a relief for me because I planned to sit down and dine at a table in the restaurant with my wife and my son.
It took around 10 to 15 minutes for us to reach the front of the line. Once it was our turn to order, we were greeted by an extremely friendly cashier who spoke Japanese, but seemed to have a Korean accent.
After we placed our orders, we took a seat at a table at the far end of the restaurant. I then whipped out my camera for a photograph of the interior of the restaurant from my vantage point.
Our food arrived quickly. The first bowl to arrive was the gyu-don that we ordered for my son.
Gyu-don is one of the most basic fast food dishes in Japan (similar to hamburgers and pizza in North America). Its preparation is relatively simple and its flavours so standardized that it is almost impossible to screw the the dish up. So it was totally unsurprising to me that this bowl of gyu-don was competently prepared and had all of the flavours that I expected from a bowl of gyu-don. The beef was cooked in a sukiyaki-like sauce which give it a predominantly sweet flavour. The beef was sliced thin so that no amount of overcooking would make the beef too tough to ingest. The beef was cooked with onions and topped with pickled ginger and fresh scallions. The rice was a little on the dry side, which was typical in order to not become too soggy from being soaked by the sauce that came with the slices of beef. The gyu-don that we were served at Kita no Donburi tasted almost exactly like the gyu-don served at Yoshinoya or Matsuka (they call it the guy-meshi) in Japan…but then it also tasted exactly the same as my home-made gyu-don made with mass-produced and prepackaged gyu-don sauce bought at a Japanese supermarket.
My wife’s katsu curry came next.
Like the gyu-don, the curry sauce tasted like home-made Japanese curry that came from supermarket-bought S&B (or Glico) curry concentrate. The difference was that the curry here was not hot or warm or even lukewarm, but COLD. It was room temperature when the average temperature of the room was around 16 degrees celcius. The pork katsu was also cold. The cold temperature did not affect the breading as my wife said that the pork katsu still had a bit of crispiness to it. The cold temperature of the katsu also did not affect the pork; my wife felt that the rather thin pork was not enjoyable at any temperature. The rice was a little bit warmer than the other components, but it became cold as soon as it came into contact to the curry sauce. My wife gave it a score of 3 out of a total 10.
My hamburg don was the last to arrive.
The hamburg don came with a hamburg patty, lettuce, rice, and a soft boiled egg. The hamburg patty was thick and not too dry. I could taste the flavours of both pork and beef in the patty. I would’ve liked the patty more if it was topped with the usual Japanese take on demi-glace instead of the ultra sweet teriyaki-like sauce that came with the patty. Although the sauce was not one that I preferred, it didn’t ruin the patty for me. The nice, runny yolk from the soft boiled egg helped by neutralizing the sweetness of the sauce. The fresh and juicy lettuce also helped divert some of the attention away from the sauce. Having some rice with every bite of the hamburg patty would’ve made the unpleasantness of the overly-sweet sauce go away entirely…if they had only included enough rice. But they included such a paltry amount of rice that I was forced to eat two thirds of the patty without rice. The lack of rice also left me hungry after having the hamburg don.
The food we received at Kita no Donburi was rather mediocre, but I don’t think serving high-quality food was ever part of the mission statement of the restaurant. I think the intent was for the restaurant to be more of a quick-service, inexpensive lunch option for the office-dwellers and students that make up the daytime demographics of the neighborhood. Judging from the long lineup at the restaurant when I visited it during a weekday lunch hour, I think that it has achieved its goal. It, however, did not suitably satisfy my wife or me because my wife was served unpleasant cold curry while I was served an inadequate amount of rice. But the gyu-don my son had was perfectly acceptable. That is the don/bowl I will be ordering if I ever end up at this place again (which I doubt).