Donburiya – Japanese fast food at the speed of the bullet train Shinkansen

By Tana Kosiyabong

buta-mayo_CU

I had my eyes on Donburiya, a new Japanese restaurant on Robson Street, since they were still under construction. That’s why I wanted to stop by for lunch on its Grand Opening day. However, Xiao, my coworker with whom I had made the lunch plan, couldn’t make it. She asked if we could postpone the visit until the next day. I reluctantly agreed to her request, but, in the back of my mind, I still wanted to go there. It was the freakin’ Grand Opening for Pete’s sake and I had a story to write. “Screw this. I’ll go there by myself,” I murmured.

Donburiya is only a few blocks away from my office. It is clean and brand spanking new. There were only a few customers inside when I walked in. The menu board design looked very familiar. Then it dawned on me that I had seen this design from Ebi-Ten, another Japanese restaurant located at 388 Robson Street. A waitress confirmed my suspicion; the two restaurants are related.

During the Grand Opening period, there are only 5 menu items from which to choose, all of them are Donburi– Japanese rice bowl dishes. No. 1: Yakiniku Don (BBQ beef on rice with salad and mayo). No. 2: Teri-Mayo Don (Chicken Teriyaki on rice with salad and mayo). No. 3: Mabo-Tofu Don (minced pork and tofu in spicy sauce on rice). No. 4: Buta-Mayo Don (Gingered stir fried pork on rice with cabbage and mayo). No. 5: Buta-Kim Don (Stir fried pork with spicy kimchi on rice). They are all conveniently priced at $6.50 for regular bowl and $5.50 for small bowl. During this period, all orders come with a free cup of miso soup. Starting on September 10th, Donburiya will add 5 more noodle dishes to its menu.

I opted for Buta-Mayo Don simply because it looked the yummiest on the menu board. After paying for my order and a quick stop at the pickle station, I walked towards an empty table near the window. When I was about to sit down, my Buta-Mayo was right behind me. I jumped back up. It had only been a minute since I ordered. How could they make it so fast? If only the Vancouver 2010 Olympics had a “Speed Donburi” event, they would have won, hands down.

I was not only amazed by the speed of the food, but also impressed by its appearance. The zigzag streaks of mayo on top of the gingered pork screamed contemporary Japanese cuisine so loud it activated my saliva glands. I was turning into a Pavlov’s drooling dog behind the camera. After taking a dozen photos, it was time for the taste test. The pork was tender and smooth. Buta-Mayo Don was made with thinly sliced pork belly, which is a fatty cut. (I figured this out from the cook’s hand gesture when I asked which cut of pork they use for the dish. Hope nothing got lost in translation.) But the dish wasn’t greasy at all. The ginger flavor was there but subtle. I wish it were a bit more intense. The mayonnaise complimented the gingered pork flavor well. Raw cabbage added crunchy texture – which otherwise would be missed – to the dish. The miso soup was a bit weak but it was free. No complaints.

Once I finished my lunch, I was in a pretty good mood. So, I went back to the office and shared the pictures of Buta-Mayo Don with Xiao. “I thought we’re going there together tomorrow,” she said with an angry undertone in her voice. “Crap! I forgot I wasn’t supposed to tell her,” I thought. But I was quick on my feet. “Of course, we’re still going there tomorrow,” I replied as if it were the plan all along.

On the second trip, there were more customers than the day before. I lead myself to believe that it was all because of my Donburiya tweet. This visit, I ordered Yakiniku Don. And Xiao got her Buta-Kim Don in a small bowl. I finally noticed that the rice toppings had already been precooked and stored in the warmers. When ordered, they just put the toppings on rice with garnishes. No wonder the food came out of their kitchen at the speed of the Shinkanzen. Xiao was as surprised as I was on that first day when she got her order a minute later. The food was good, even with the precooked toppings. My Yakiniku Don was quite tasty, but not as tender as the pork. Xiao liked her Buta-Kim Don too. “I give it 3 ½,” Xiao said.

If money were no object, I would trade fast food burgers for these fast food Donburi any day. Donburiya is great for lunches in a hurry. The service is better than your typical self-service restaurant. At $6.50, their Donburi aren’t the cheapest I’ve ever had, but they are by far the fastest. Any faster than this, it would certainly be freaky.

Donburiya is located at 1329 Robson Street, Vancouver, BC (next to Don Guacamoles). (T) 604.568.6066

(For an under $5 Donburi, try Robson Market’s food court at 1610 Robson Street.)

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Donburiya Buta-Mayo Don: ©©© 3/4

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Donburiya Yakiniku Don: ©©© 1/2

buta-kim

Donburiya Buta-Kim Don: XXX 1/2 (rated by Xiao Zhang)

NOTE: September 10th, I went back to Donburiya to finish my review on their additional menu items. Donburiya did add five additional menu items, but only 3 of them are noodles dishes. Here are the new items on menu: No.6 California Don (Avocado, crab meat, fish roe, eggs and seaweed on sushi rice with salad and mayo), No.7 Teriyaki Udon (Udon noodle in soup with teriyaki chicken), No.8 Teriyaki Ramen (Ramen noodles in a miso-based broth with teriyaki chicken and veggies), No. 9 Mabo-Tofu Don (Ramen noodles in a miso-based broth with minced pork and spicy tofu) No. 10 Takoyaki (mini octopus pancakes – 6 pcs). The noodle dishes are priced at $5.95 for a regular bowl and $6.95 for a large bowl. Takoyaki is priced at $3.25.

I ordered a large Teriyaki Ramen. It was not as fast as the donburi, but definitely not slow. The soup was tasty and smooth. Noodles were perfectly cooked. Chicken Teriyaki was very similar to Ebi-Ten. The large bowl is a bit too big for me. I’ll stick with the regular size next time.

teriyakiramen

Donburiya Teriyaki Ramen: ©©© 1/2

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24 thoughts on “Donburiya – Japanese fast food at the speed of the bullet train Shinkansen

  1. Looks really delicious. This is probably the wrong time to look at it as I’m starting to become hungry now in the middle of the afternoon.

    1. That sounds very similar to Donburiya. Maybe they should have a showdown to see who would be the fastest Donburi restaurant in the world! hehe.

  2. Oh jeeze, I need to stop reading this first thing in the morning, because now I’m going to have little donburi bowls of deliciousness dancing in my head all day!! GREAT find, and as always, mouth-watering photos. Mayonnaise is popular in Japanese food, no? We usually didn’t add it to our donburi style meals, opting for the addition of a raw egg right before eating, but I notice it more in restaurants. It definitely adds a nice creaminess to things, which I love. Maybe it’s a substitute for the egg? I know restaurants are wary of raw egg risks.

    1. I saw a lot of Japanese food use mayo, e.g. tako yaki, okonomiyaki, yakisoba and japanese salad. Japadog, famous hot dog stands in Vancouver, top their teri-mayo hotdog with mayo and dry seaweed. Very popular here. tako yaki,That’s why I called Buta-Mayo Don “contemporary japanese style.” I don’t know if it’s legal to serve raw eggs in the restaurants here. But I’ll be surprised if it is. So, did you end up having some donburi for lunch?

  3. though i’m not usually a fan of food that is prepared at the speed of a bullet train this does look pretty good. i hope this one is better than a japanese fast food restaurant we have here in new york near times square. i went there once and the food had a massive amount of MSG in it and i suffered from it terribly.

    1. Short and Bald,
      The food was good, espeically when I realized that it was precooked. If I didn’t see them put a bowl together myself, I wouldn’t know. With that said, it’s not the best Japanese ever. It very good for what it is. I don’t know if they use MSG or not. I would assume that they didn’t. To be fair to all the restaurants, sometimes, MSG is hidden in other ingredients. The restaurant may not intend to add MSG, but the ingredients they use may already contain MSG.

  4. I went here last night for the first time last night and it was great.
    Cheap, fast and total comfort food. Two of us ate for $13.00.
    Nothing fancy for sure, but what do you expect for $6.00?

    YUM.

  5. A friend has warned me about precooked food to be doing me injustice, but I don’t really care. Your post seem to validate my contention — that it can be nice. And isn’t it wonderful for us to discover how one restaurant is related to another? I even found out that my recent favorite food spot is also owned by this budget hotel where I stayed in for a week. I also dislike my food when it’s over greasy. Plus, it’s really a downer when we plan a dine out with companions and it never materializes. Taking photos of my meal before I even tear into it is one of the brief agonies of my life, but it’s darn exciting to be that close to eating the good stuff served to you. right?

    1. Fine Life Folk,
      Yes precooked food can be nice too, especially soup. Leftover soups usually taste better than the freshly cooked ones in my opinion:) Well… probably not applicable to the noodle soups. Like you said, sometime you can find a great meal in an unexpected place. You just have to be open-minded. In my case, because of budgetary reason, I have to be even more open-minded than others. lol. I also find that it’s quite frustrated to take pictures of all the dishes instead of eating them. But I don’t know how to work around that.

  6. I will have to agree with you that Donburiya really hits a sweet spot in the $$$/value department. However, one thing that disappointed me was that they do not have one dish – one dish that would have really made me love it no matter what: oyakodon!!! I guess since most of the components of the dish are pre-cooked to a certain extent, it wouldn’t have worked as well. However, as you mentioned, they have to cook the ramen anyway.

    1. I love oyakodon too. I’m not sure why they don’t have it there. Maybe it takes too long to cook? But if you are in the area, you can go to Robson Market’s food court on the second floor. You should be able to get Oyakodon there.

  7. Normally I don’t read post on blogs, but I wish to say that this write-up very pressured me to try and do so! Your writing style has been amazed me. Thanks, quite nice article.

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