Monday 10 March 2008

King / Bourke Quest Part 14: Don Bay Japanese Lunch Place

Don Bay

Don Bay Japanese Lunch Place
Shop 5, 440 Collins St, Melbourne (in Gurner's Lane) (map)
9670 3456

All credit for finding this place goes to mellie from my favourite food blog (which inspired me to start Melbourne Gastronome), tummy rumbles! Mellie wrote up a nifty little review of Don Bay Japanese Lunch Place the other week - as I read it and drooled looking at the photo of the Katsu Curry Don, I realised to my delight that DBJLP is close enough to my office to qualify as part of the King/Bourke Quest! Often mellie reviews superb lunch venues up at the "Paris" end of the CBD (like Espressino and Laksa Me) and I always whinge in her comments section about the scarcity of venues at the, uh, "New York" end. Well mellie, although I can't go and flirt with Remo and the other Italian Stallions at Espressino as often as I'd like, I'm certainly going to capitalise on DBJLP's proximity and get some damn good cheapo Japanese!

Paying at Don Bay

DBJLP is what the name suggests - a Japanese lunch place, tucked in a little laneway parallel to William Street running between Collins and Little Collins. Inspired by mellie's review, I took L there for lunch last Monday, and LMM and J for lunch on the Friday. The venue is TINY - the only seating consists of six stools up against a high bench. A tattered calendar depicting Mount Fuji is taped to the side of the drinks fridge, photos of the dishes are taped to the window and several pots bubble madly on the stove.

Curry udon

On my first visit I decided to try something different from mellie, so I settled on the Curry Udon - noodle in curry soup with skinless chicken pieces ($8.70). I'd had lots of Japanese curries and lots of udon soups before, but had never had a Japanese curry soup before. It was hearty and nourishing, with a great peppery flavour.

Agedashi tofu

L had the Agedashi Tofu ($8.50) and gave it the thumbs up. The sauce was gingery but light, and the bamboo shoots still had a hint of crunch - just the way I like 'em.

When I went back to DBJLP on the Friday, I was nursing an absolute bitch of a hangover - the night before we'd been at a function at Transit, and late in the evening SOMEONE (er, not me, let the record show) had suggested multiple Sambucca shots and cigars... and SOMEHOW we had thought this was a good idea (I find it telling that typing "sambuca = evil" into google comes up with 58,700 results!).

Katsu curry

So given my wretched state that Friday afternoon, I knew it had to be the comfort food that is Katsu Curry Don ($8.50). Like mellie said, in the looks department it's no great shakes, but it really delivers on flavour - the crumbing on the pork was still crunchy despite being immersed in the sauce, the pork was trim, the pickled ginger was mouth-wateringly good and the curry sauce was bloody marvelous. I sense that I'll be getting it again this week... :)

Soba special with agedashi tofu, potato salad and kakiage

Mon ordered the Agedashi Tofu on the strength of L's recommendation, but J went for the Soba Special - plain soba noodles with portions of agedashi tofu, potato salad and kakiage (a fritter of mixed tempura vegetables). The special came with a separate little bowl of soy-based sauce to pour on the noodles.

For all those down the New York end of the city between 11am-3pm on weekdays, you gotta try this DBJLP - but be aware that between 1-2pm the queues can be heinous!

Neko neko


Anonymous said...

A friend recommended Don Bay to me too and it is now at least a once a weeker!
So good!

Anonymous said...

Hey there Claire - oh, what beautiful things you say *blush*

Secretly, I actually wished I worked in the New York end of town. You have been blogging some seriously drool worthy eats over there of late! Hmm...I wonder if I can get a transfer ;-)

NB. I'll give Remo your regards :-)

Anonymous said...


since you are coming down to don bay suggest walking around the corner to the aptly named Macchiato On Collins japanese cafe (446 Collins S). that's right, a juxtaposition of japanese food and italian coffee.

worth a try if not for the noodle soups at least for the chilly squid sushi.


claire said...

I totally agree, jodes... it's becoming a once a weeker for me too! Tried the Oyako Don bento last Friday, it too was excellent.

Oh, mellie! I guess the grass is always greener on the other end of town. We should organise an exchange program... ;)
Last time I was at Espressino (batting my eyelashes at Remo, of course), I suggested they get a lease in the food court which will be opening in the new skyscraper ("CBW") on the corner of William and Bourke - all the poncy lawyers down this end would LOVE an Espressino-style lunch spot, there's a real gap in the market down here... fingers crossed!

Hey anonymous, thanks for the tip (do you work at Macchiato on Collins, by any chance?)... I will come by and check it out for the blog soon! :)

Marika said...

I used to work in that building and love love loved that place...I miss it! Our office moved up the top end of Collins Street and it's like I've lost a family member. I miss the NY end of town lunches so much...

Anonymous said...

do you work at Macchiato on Collins, by any chance?

Nope, just a regular at Don Bay, Don Too and Melbourne Gastronome. Work near the cnr of collins and william. Enjoy.

claire said...

Marika - hmmmm, top end of Collins means that you're pretty far away from Chinatown... what else is up there? There are niceish pizze at Tazio if memory serves correctly, plus a pretty good Japanese place somewhere near the back of 101 Collins, right? You should make the odd pilgrimage back down to Don Too, now that the Collins St tram only stops at superstops... :)

Hey ivap, from what you right about your regular haunts you clearly have great taste ;)
I'll check out Macchiato on Collins soon!