The Japanese truly win hands down when it comes to turning a humble bowl of rice into a work of art. In fact, the Tokyo Dome hosts an annual 10 day competition called the Donburi Senshuken (or National Donburi Championship), where restauranteurs and chefs from different prefectures in Japan gather together to compete for a cash prize to create the most interesting and unique donburi.
Here in Hong Kong, donburi specialists, DONDONYA, through a year-long collaboration with Japan’s national Fuji TV network and the Tokyo Dome, have been serving up 4 of the award winning bowls to Hong Kong palettes, over the last few months.
I popped into their newly renovated restauant at APM Mall in Kwun Tung to try a few of their acclaimed rice bowls which are served solo or come in value for money sets for lunch, tea and dinner, with a drink or side dish and soup as an easy-on-the-pocket price add-on.
The Dondonya chain operates a total of 10 casual dining outlets all over Hong Kong, Kowloon and the New Territories, serving up not just donburi but Sanuki thick udon bowls, a variety of Beef and Pork Curry dishes and delicious deep fried Katsuretsu items.
Diners who came in earlier in the year would have sampled the 3 other winning bowls from Hokkaido’s famous Unimeshi Don and the Toro Salmon and Ikura Don (pictured above) to Kyushu’s Oita Torimeshi Don.
On promotion during my visit was 2017’s top 5 winner, the Cochin Oyakodon from Aichi Prefecture in Nagoya. The dish was created by Torikai, a famous chicken specialty restaurant chain there. The chicken thighs of Nagoya Cochin are the main ingredient of this donburi. The chicken is bred free-range and has a distinctive appearance with buff-colored feathers and is famous for its firmness and meat that is supposedly richer in flavour. Bonito, soy sauce from the Aichi prefecture, Japanese sake, high-quality mirin and other ingredients are simmered into a broth for marinating the Nagoya Cochin. Topped with runny egg, the final result offers a truly satisfying rice bowl at only HKD$78 served as a set.
We decided to try a few other eye-catching rice bowls including the Obihiro Butadon Donburi, a delightful Pork dish that much like eating a hearty bowl of tender pork chops with peas and a delicious rich sauce. We found out that the restaurant uses a variety of short grain rice from Japan and this is cooked in purified water to retain its full flavour and fragrance.
The Jumbo Red Shrimp and Seafood Rice Bowl was definitely the most visually appealing and my favourite item on the menu. This would be an instant hit with any seafood lover as the seafood tasted fresh and it was stacked like a beautiful bouquet that looks almost too good to dismantle and dig into.
The Fisherman’s Catch was my daughter’s choice and understandably it was about getting the best of two bowls on one tray. An excellent and a very satisfying choice for someone who likes variety. This combination of two mini bowls, the Eel Rice bowl and a Mixed Sashimi Bowl is all about flavour and colour juxtaposed, each fighting for attention making it almost impossible to decide which to eat first.
Everything was happily downed with Frozen Beer and Suntori Whisky leaving us a little too full for dessert. But the next time I return, I will look forward to trying the Matcha, Coffee and Soda drinks and sample the selection of Parfait desserts.
The verdict: Definitely most impressed! Great overall variety, excellent presentation, good quality and exceptional value for money. Deserves more than one return trip!
Dondonya has 10 outlets in Hong Kong – location addresses click: HERE