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