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Donburi, Chef Seungjoon Jang's Donburi-Only Specialist with Eight Combinations To Choose From - Adams Morgan

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I didn't see a thread on this so I thought I'd start one. This place serves one dish, Donburi, a Japanese comfort food - basically fried something over rice with egg. Donburi DC is in Adams Morgan next to Meskerem, and opened a few weeks ago. Seats maybe 15 people, sushi bar style in front of the prep area. Modern Asian atmosphere, lots of nice wood and blacks everywhere. I went last night, and it's clear they're still working the kinks out, so I would DEFINITELY withhold final judgement until they get everything in gear. Service was a tad slow, one of our orders got maybe lost? (I actually think someone else claimed our party's bowl as theirs, but either way, there was definite disorganization), and it was one guys' first time operating the cash register. They were very apologetic about all the issues, but I'm sure it'll get going soon. Finally I will say I am no expert on Japanese food, let alone donburi. This would be a first for me. 

Appetizer

You order before you take a seat, and have a small variety of drink options, some Japanese ones included. There's also a free chilled tea to drink.They have 3 appetizer options, we got the sashimi and chicken karaage (fried chicken) ($6 each). Both were good, the sashimi was 4 hefty portions of salmon, the chicken was a little overbattered but overall quite juicy and tender with a crispy exterior, but then again I am a total sucker for fried chicken.

Entree

I only tried the katsudon, the fried pork cutlet option (forget price, but around $10+?). It's served with a fried egg ontop, with onions simmered in a dark, sweet soy sauce. It also came with pickled spicy peppers and pickled daikon(?) It was good. It was not great. The pork was a little flavorless and it could have overall used a bit more sauce. I think it may have a sat out for a little (could not have been long though as party turnover was high) and lost a bit of its luster after being fried (as I said, there were technical difficulties). The gooey, savory egg however, was doing some fantastic work and really brought the whole dish together. I don't feel like the pepper or daikon lent much to the whole dish, but they added a little variety to each bite.

Anyway, it was good, and totally hit the comfort food spot for me. I think, given a months time or so, I'd definitely consider returning to see what's improved. As it is now, its a pretty good price for some pretty good food. I wouldn't destination dine there though, at least not yet. For now, I'd give it 7/10.

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Entree

I only tried the katsudon, the fried pork cutlet option (forget price, but around $10+?). It's served with a fried egg ontop, with onions simmered in a dark, sweet soy sauce. It also came with pickled spicy peppers and pickled daikon(?) It was good. It was not great. The pork was a little flavorless and it could have overall used a bit more sauce. I think it may have a sat out for a little (could not have been long though as party turnover was high) and lost a bit of its luster after being fried (as I said, there were technical difficulties). The gooey, savory egg however, was doing some fantastic work and really brought the whole dish together. I don't feel like the pepper or daikon lent much to the whole dish, but they added a little variety to each bite.

Anyway, it was good, and totally hit the comfort food spot for me. I think, given a months time or so, I'd definitely consider returning to see what's improved. As it is now, its a pretty good price for some pretty good food. I wouldn't destination dine there though, at least not yet. For now, I'd give it 7/10.

I ate lunch there today and ordered the mix katsudon, which is the same as above with an added large shrimp,. I pretty much agree with these comments. I would add, however, that I couldn't begin to eat all of the dish and left a substantial amount of rice. But in this age of $16 burgers, I have zero complaints about the pricing here. The man preparing the food told me that I could have more sauce if I wanted it.  I didn't take him up on that.

Because it wasn't very crowded, I didn't suffer any lapses in service--except that I realized later that the cashier had given me too much change back. I went back and got that straightened out.

I know pretty much nothing about this type of Japanese cuisine; but, the place struck me as being wonderfully civilized. There are carafes of ice water within everyone's reach, along with spoons and chopsticks. I asked the cashier for a fork when I ordered and paid for my food and she promptly procured one. My only objection is to the seating which consists of backless stools.  However, since there is no alcohol for sale, one isn't likely to hang around throwing down sake shots.  A place like this needs quick turnovers and those stools promote that, I suppose.

Still, this place seems like a peculiar little jewel in this ever-evolving neighborhood.  With Sakuramen just across the street and Pho 14 on Columbia Road, it seems that Asian street food places are taking the place of first Cuban and then Ethiopian restaurants. There is even a Korean restaurant (in the basement below Himalayan Heritage) that nobody seems to know anything about--not even the Korean man who runs the local liquor store.

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Thanks for that report! Any word on takeout?

Not 100% sure but I did see the chef put an order in a plastic take-out type container, but I wasn't really watching too closely. I think so though!

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The Korean place under Himalayan Heritage is the amazing Muzette which is a norebang, or karaoke bar, where you have individual private rooms for groups.  The food there is fine, especially when you are in the middle of a four hour karaoke session.

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Even though donburi is easy to make at home (unlike ramen), I'm excited about checking this out since I miss non-ramen Japanese comfort food (which I've only seen at Temari in Rockville). It's also an excuse for me to try out the new bakery, Sugar Daddy's, up the street.

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Went in today for the first time for a late-ish lunch. They definitely do takeout as I saw them make several orders for takeout.  I had the Kaarage (fried chicken) donburi and the salmon sashimi app.  The salmon is simple and good - 4 thick cut pieces of fresh fish that the chef cuts too order with your traditional long, sword-like knife.

The donburi though is the real treat here. Everything is cooked to order (so prepare to wait at least 5-15 minutes depending on how busy they are). Each order is a big mound of rice that gets topped with delicious brown sauce (soy, dashi, sake, and mirin) that is quickly reduced with onions and an egg and then has been something fried (pork, shrimp, or vegetables) or salmon sashimi on top with some japanese pickles on top on the side (oshinko - sweet/sour yellow daikon radish and a bit fiery pickled pepper - unsure if they were thin sliced jalapenos or something else). The way they cook everything together is great - the premade sauce is cooked over high heat in special mini sautee pans with sliced onions.  After a few minutes, that is topped with an egg.  All of that delicious sauce/egg/onion combo tops the rice and is what makes this dish sing. The pickles are nice contrasts of crunch, sour, and a bit of spice to go with the savory/sweet brown sauce.

All of that being said, I thought the fried chicken itself was the weakest element. It didn't have a lot of flavor, lots of extra overly fried batter, chicken was a bit underdone.  I think next time I'll try the vegetarian option (the shrimp and pork cutlets looked good, but I didn't eat them).

The staff is very nice and it is all one long bar, so great for a couple or a single - not so great for a group.  The chef/owner? said the place is definitely busier at night than for lunch and once he gets a liquor license they'll probably try to stay open later. (currently close at 10pm).

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Stopped in a week or so ago.  This is indeed good comfort type food.  And with winter coming (some might say already here) looking forward to a belly filled with rice, and sauce, and Japanese pickles topped with bbq eel or shrimp or fried chicken.  Still no liquor license.  This donburi stuff is crying out for some cold beer.

DC needs more of these small counter operations which specialize in a dish or two.  Tasty.

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DC needs more of these small counter operations which specialize in a dish or two.  Tasty.

Indeed DC does.

It's funny - you all don't know this, but there are times (every day) when I *cringe* while opening threads such as this, i.e., threads about lesser-known restaurants that haven't shown up in awhile.

Do I cringe because I fear for the end of the mom-n-pop? Nope, I cringe because if it's closed, I just created five non-stop minutes of work, and if I don't do it right then and there, it doesn't get done. At the end of a long day (it's 1:10 AM), I sometimes refuse to open threads, for fear that I'll have to toil when all I want to do is relax and enjoy reading the posts. God if I only had that luxury.

But I said to myself, "There's no way this is closed" - because we truly do need more operations such as this - so I fearlessly opened the thread. One good thing about Adams Morgan: it can support operations like Donburi (talking rent per square foot), and if you think about it, not many places this close to downtown can.

And there's no way those little white dots on top of the eel are MSG crystals because they're too small, right? Right?! They're some obscure Japanese seed that can only be harvested during certain months when there's a full moon - I'm pretty sure of this. Either that or it's a glisten throwback from the digital camera.

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And there's no way those little white dots on top of the eel are MSG crystals because they're too small, right? Right?! They're some obscure Japanese seed that can only be harvested during certain months when there's a full moon - I'm pretty sure of this. Either that or it's a glisten throwback from the digital camera.

Actually, I would bet it's sansyo...

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Actually, I would bet it's sansyo...

Actually, I would bet you're right. I'd never heard of sansyo before just now. From Amazon:

"Sansyo are the ground dried leaves of the prickly ash tree, which is the same tree that produces Szechwan peppercorns. Sansyo gives a slightly hot flavour to certain Japanese foods, commonly used on Unagi (eel). It is used to counter fatty tastes and is a nice flavor for all sorts of foods such as barbeque fish and more. A little goes a long way and the jar is about 4 inches tall."

Ground, dried leaves of the prickly ash tree, the same tree that produces Szechuan peppercorns - well, I learned something new today.

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I haven't been inside the restaurant, but they fed me the last two Sundays via Postmates. Everything tasted well and really good portions for I`m-hungry-but-too-lazy-to-go-out-to-eat. Perhaps the best packaged takeaway I received in recent months. The biggest challenge in takeaway is packaging, and our friends over at Donburi has done a great job of it.  

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I randomly chose to try Donburi today for the first time on their one-year anniversary. The meal was great (and great fun) and I'm kicking myself for not coming in earlier.  The only snafu, and it was probably as much my fault as theirs, is I didn't realize their system is that you order at the host stand by the door, even if you're eating in.  I walked by without anyone stopping me, sat down, and waited stupidly at the counter for a while feeling ignored.  But once that was cleared up I had a great lunch.

Mixed katsudon was breaded fried pork and chicken cutlet, with one big fried shrimp as well, atop a bowl of rice with a half-cooked egg, two types of pickles, and a sweet/savory "donburi" sauce (the other option was curry).  Very nice.  Excellent bowl of miso soup with the expected seaweed but also tiny little baby oyster mushrooms in the rich broth.  Plus, you get dinner and a show with the setup they have there, watching the staff fight through the weeds in the tiny little space they have there behind the counter, working their butts off getting things done well and done quickly...that was pretty damn impressive.  Cool little place, can't wait to go back.

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It's a great place. I go every few weeks for my fix - you can't go wrong with soft fried egg, good rice, donburi sauce and onions, pickles (not to mention the toppings) And apparently they've expanded the menu a bit - http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/youngandhungry/2014/11/20/donburi-offers-half-off-everything-today/  Hopefully the new additions will be as good as the original stuff.

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Went in last week for the first time. Don't know why it took so long since I work just down the street. Love the concept, but the flavors weren't to my own preference. Sauce was a little too strong and over powering. Just wasn't quite rounded out enough to me, not sure if it was not enough dashi or too much soy sauce.  I had the katsudon and wife had the ebi fry don. We also had an order of karaage. The karaage was good though and I could see going back for the karaage don. Like the mugicha on the counter, though it could use some longer steeping before they set it out. Prices IMO are very reasonable and unlike so many other places today, they don't charge for extra rice or pickles.

I never know for sure if these are connected, so I hesitate to mention it, but both wife and I had severe stomach aches that afternoon. Our son seemed to be OK, or at least his daycare didn't say anything when we picked him up that evening.

Totally agree with previous sentiments that we need more restaurants like this. Of course, then we would start looking more like Tokyo, not such a bad thing. I'd vote for a dedicated yakitori-ya and wife and I were talking the other day that a specialized udon/soba place would be nice, but doubtful if it would be viable. NYC has demonstrated that the dedicated yakitori-ya could work with several options there. The yakitori was always my favorite part of dining at Makoto when they did that as a side a la carte menu.

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Totally agree with previous sentiments that we need more restaurants like this. Of course, then we would start looking more like Tokyo, not such a bad thing. I'd vote for a dedicated yakitori-ya and wife and I were talking the other day that a specialized udon/soba place would be nice, but doubtful if it would be viable. NYC has demonstrated that the dedicated yakitori-ya could work with several options there. The yakitori was always my favorite part of dining at Makoto when they did that as a side a la carte menu.

Man, if I could transplant Soba-ya from the East Village in NYC down here I would be a very happy camper.

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It's a great place. I go every few weeks for my fix - you can't go wrong with soft fried egg, good rice, donburi sauce and onions, pickles (not to mention the toppings) And apparently they've expanded the menu a bit - http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/youngandhungry/2014/11/20/donburi-offers-half-off-everything-today/  Hopefully the new additions will be as good as the original stuff.

Tried the new curry the other day.  FIne as far as it goes, but I'll definitely stick with the original from now on.

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I dropped by with my fiancee during the Anniversary 50% off night.  It was a madhouse, took about an hour to get our sakedon (salmon), gyudon (beef), kaarage (fried chicken) appetizer, and ebi (shrimp) appetizer.

There were probably 200 take-out orders during that hour, so it was a pretty high energy/insane environment.  The food was alright though (since it was half off, my final bill was $14 before tip).

Sakedon - salmon wasn't as fresh as I'd have liked, the rice sauce was a tad salty.

Gyudon - sauce was a tad salty, beef texture was great.

Kaarage - very very good, and was a steal of a deal during the special ($3!).

Ebi shrimp - pretty good, hard to mess up shrimp tempura.

The sauces were a tad saltier than what I'm used to (and I used to eat katsudons every day).  Overall, a pretty good experience and a solid meal!

I mentioned that I remembered Stan from his previous gigs... but he was a bit reluctant to talk about them :\

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Would like some more quick-serve places in the neighborhood that aren't Jumbo Slice or Amsterdam Falafel (though I admittedly hit up both for dinner from time to time). A Cava Grille or SweetGreen would be great.

As for another quick serve option in the neighborhood - check out Donburi. It isn't "quick serve" but if the place isn't too busy it usually only take about 5-10 minutes for your order and you pay in advance and sit at the bar so you aren't waiting for a waiter or pay a tip.

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As for another quick serve option in the neighborhood - check out Donburi. It isn't "quick serve" but if the place isn't too busy it usually only take about 5-10 minutes for your order and you pay in advance and sit at the bar so you aren't waiting for a waiter or pay a tip.

I love Donburi, but I want something where I can get a lot of vegetables and/or a salad.

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Based on the comments in here, Donburi seems to have taken a turn for the worse if my delivery order today was any indication. I went with the absurdly priced ($18!) Unagidon, which was a medium sized bowl of 80% gummy rice, 15% mushy, fatty unagi, and 5% out of place pickled veggies that did nothing for me at all in this dish.  A really disappointing experience that I had been looking forward to after all of the positive comments I'd read.

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I've always been pretty disappointed by Donburi, which pains me to say, because I really want more good, interesting, small-space options in town.

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[Maybe the subject heading needs changing, since Meskerem has been closed for some time now.]

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