Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Donguri


Mao
 Share

Recommended Posts

  • 2 years later...
Raw and cooked, sautéed and deep-fried, fish predominates on the Donguri menu. My favorites included grilled squid, which was a special one night. It was unusually supple and had been seasoned only with salt, although there were scallions and grated ginger on the side. Just as good was the broiled Chilean sea bass, a staple on the menu, which had been marinated in dashi, sake, soy sauce and pickled yuzu.

Donguri (Frank Bruni) (from the New York Times DIGEST update for Wednesday, 15 September 2004. Scroll down for the appropriate link.)

Behold the anti-hip Japanese secret of Manhattan -- so secret it's not even in Zagat.

Chef Shuji Fujita, along with his wife Michiko, present to you a Japanese-style trattoria located in the Upper East Side.

Soba

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've been there. It's pretty good. And it has a good reputation in the Japanese ex-pat community. This leads to a question that loops back to the star rating question. This is a good place. But at two stars, its one star away from say Sugiyama, which is in a different league, in price, style of food and quality. Maybe that one star difference is enough. I'm not sure. Donguri is basically a very sucessful and high quality local place--which is most quickly reflected in the review's comments about the service. Not bad, but typical. It's going to be tough to get a table now---it has always been tough becuase of its small size and a large number of regular customers. I'm curious to see what the Megu review by the Times will be----it had better bet at least three stars or else it's in big trouble.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Megu was already reviewed by the Time- Bruni's second review, I believe. He gave it two stars, but said that some of the food was spectacular, even approaching four-star quality. Here's the review:

Megu (Frank Bruni)

Donguri sounds very interesting- I would like to go there. Two stars is quite a bit for a little place like that. Very surprising- especially compared with a place the size of Megu.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I was very upset to see Bruni's review. I love Donguri, and am sad that it is no longer a secret -- or at least off the press radar. It's modest, and many of the dishes are not unusual, though I wouldn't call it typical, as Todd36 did.

The quality of its ingredients are very high and they source unusual ingredients, many from Japan. And I've eaten a few dishes there that I haven't found in other ambitious NY Japanese restaurants. And some common dishes are even served differently in the typical Japanese restaurant. Their lotus root tempura stuffed with shrimp, not mentioned specifically by Bruni, is unusual and, as is all of Donguri's tempura, excellent. Donguri's sazae, a shellfish served sometimes as sashimi, is grilled in the shell and served with its innards, dark green and curled like a fiddlehead. Not so at Megu -- its sazae tastes French, like escargot.

In my experience each dish has arrived not wordlessly, as Bruni writes, but with a soft thank you in Japanese. The owner's wife is always smiling, chatting to customers, and answering questions -- again with that distinct Japanese politeness. In this way the place feels Japanese in a way that the typically slick and pretty New York Japanese restaurants rarely do. After every meal, as I am walking toward the door, the hostess comes after me, bowing and saying thank you and then gesturing toward the kitchen, where the chef is standing doing the same.

Again I'm upset to see a review, but enjoyed Bruni's take.

JJ Goode

Co-author of Serious Barbecue, which is in stores now!

www.jjgoode.com

"For those of you following along, JJ is one of these hummingbird-metabolism types. He weighs something like eleven pounds but he can eat more than me and Jason put together..." -Fat Guy

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I was very upset to see Bruni's review. I love Donguri, and am sad that it is no longer a secret -- or at least off the press radar. It's modest, and many of the dishes are not unusual, though I wouldn't call it typical, as Todd36 did.

Again I'm upset to see a review, but enjoyed Bruni's take.

Donguri is well known amoung the Japanese ex-pat community. Just not by non-Japanese speaking reviewers. I showed the review to the Japanese friend who took me there, and she scratched her head. It's not two stars in her opinion and she thinks it is an example of a typical Japanese place. If you like Donguri, she suggests you go to Ajisai, at 1st Ave and 76th, and order the dinner box, It's around $20 and changes every month. Ajisai is usually not very crowded as compared to Donhuri and it doesn't carry the same class of wine or sake. But its cooked food is pretty good, she likes that box as much as anything at Donguri. Ajisai also has not bad sushi and good noodles by the way. Tsuki, at 1st Ave. around 75th or so, has better sushi and good sake (ask the owner's wife for help) but not great cooked food.

There is one clue in Bruni's review that indicates a misunderstanding about Japanese food. It's the sushi/sashimi reference. Donguri doesn't have a sushi chef and that kind of restaruant in Japan would not have one either. So his comment about no sushi available each time he was there is off base, you wouldn't expect them to serve sushi. But you would expect that kind of restaruant in Japan to serve sashimi, in a limited selection based on what the market has and served a bit differently than what you would find in a sushi place (the way Donguri serves it requires less knife skills I think). So Bruni's discovery that Donguri doesn't have sushi and has a limited selection of sashimi is a discovery equal to the discovery that Bouley serves bread before dinner.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Donguri doesn't have a sushi chef and that kind of restaruant in Japan would not have one either.  So his comment about no sushi available each time he was there is off base, you wouldn't expect them to serve sushi.  But you would expect that kind of restaruant in Japan to serve sashimi, in a limited selection based on what the market has and served a bit differently than what you would find in a sushi place (the way Donguri serves it requires less knife skills I think).  So Bruni's discovery that Donguri doesn't have sushi and has a limited selection of sashimi is a discovery equal to the discovery that Bouley serves bread before dinner.

Good catch, Todd. I didn't notice that bit. And I'm intrigued about the restaurants you mentioned. I've never heard of either.

Donguri would, I think, be an above-average Japanese restaurant in Japan, but in New York it is a gem.

JJ Goode

Co-author of Serious Barbecue, which is in stores now!

www.jjgoode.com

"For those of you following along, JJ is one of these hummingbird-metabolism types. He weighs something like eleven pounds but he can eat more than me and Jason put together..." -Fat Guy

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Both Ajisai and Tsuki were reviewed by Asimov in his $25 and under. Both do decent business, but neither is overwhelmed. If I have time later tonight, I'll try to put a posting together of other Japanese places. My usual disclaimer about Japanese food is that 90% of the time, I eat it with someone Japanese and therefore we order in Japanese. I don't always eat with the same person though.

Donguri is probably an above average place in Japan...but but but...its a local place...giving it two stars is a bit much. My comment about sashmi is that Bruni (and the editor) don't know that much about Japanese food, which makes the review highly questionable.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Donguri is probably an above average place in Japan...but but but...its a local place...giving it two stars is a bit much.  My comment about sashmi is that Bruni (and the editor) don't know that much about Japanese food, which makes the review highly questionable.

Agreed. Two stars is not appropriate. But that's for another thread...

Have you ever tried either of Donguri's multicourse options? I haven't but want to. Bruni didn't mention them and that got me wondering whether they are still offered.

JJ Goode

Co-author of Serious Barbecue, which is in stores now!

www.jjgoode.com

"For those of you following along, JJ is one of these hummingbird-metabolism types. He weighs something like eleven pounds but he can eat more than me and Jason put together..." -Fat Guy

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Agreed. Two stars is not appropriate. But that's for another thread...

Have you ever tried either of Donguri's multicourse options? I haven't but want to. Bruni didn't mention them and that got me wondering whether they are still offered.

I ate there about a year ago, and they were offering the multi-course options at that time. I had dinner at another Japanese place today, and the owner there described Donguri as a good example of Japanese home cooking, not something that should get two stars....

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 6 months later...

Tonight we had some of our favorite dishes--greaseless tempura of shrimp-stuffed lotus root; tender grilled squid with scallion, soy, and grated ginger; unusually rich charred chilean sea bass with young ginger shoot--as well as a few new dishes, like simmered bamboo shoots with wakame. We got the typical good-bye treatment: The tiny owner lead us to the door, bowing and repeating "arigato gozaimas" in response to our compliments. But then she followed us outside, something she hadn't done before. She told us that in several months, Donguri will close for good. The chef, her husband, has a bad back. I'll be very sad to see it go.

JJ Goode

Co-author of Serious Barbecue, which is in stores now!

www.jjgoode.com

"For those of you following along, JJ is one of these hummingbird-metabolism types. He weighs something like eleven pounds but he can eat more than me and Jason put together..." -Fat Guy

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 years later...
  • 2 weeks later...

Sadly the place just isn't the same since the original owners left. For a while after the new owners took over the menu was even exactly the same, but the food wasn't on the same level. I believe Ito En now owns it, the tea people, same people who own Kai (which never impressed). The couple that originally owned Donguri were lovely, and adorable -- we even tried to track down their new place when we were in Japan, unsuccessfully.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 year later...

So a lot has changed since my last post. Basically, as I said, after the new owners took over the place they were pretty much trying to maintain the same menu as the old place, and while it was ok, it wasn't great. So we didn't go for a while.

Then we started going back, maybe 8 months ago or so. The place is transformed. There are a couple of dishes that I remember from the old place, but the menu is largely different. And it's fantastic. I'm not sure I know what Japanese home cooking is (we've spent some time in Japan, but sadly not in anyone's home), but this seems substantially more refined than the old Donguri, and more refined than, say, Sakagura.

The sashimi offerings are expanded, and they're uniformly excellent. We were there yesterday for dinner and had baby abalone served w/ the guts on the side, botan ebi (with the heads fried and served on the same plate), aji, and a massive amount (like a whole tray worth) of Maine uni.

We've also had there, a couple times, homemade tofu that they serve w/ olive oil and sea salt and black pepper, a play on the same preparation with buffalo mozzarella... I don't know if other people are doing this, but it's absolutely brilliant, and delicious.

We also had a buri rice bowl that was perfectly executed and an uni soba, again with a massive amount of uni, that surpassed Sobaya's uni soba, which is our favorite dish at Sobaya.

We've had really great fish heads there as main courses in the past. And there's a duck dish with a yuzu kosho paste that's really memorable. And the "washyugu." (Washington state Wagyu.)

We recognize several of the waitstaff from the old place, and they're exceptionally nice.

I think we have pretty high standards for Japanese food and this is now one of our favorite places.

I just hope it doesn't suffer the same fate as Kai, which is really why I'm posting!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

We've also had there, a couple times, homemade tofu that they serve w/ olive oil and sea salt and black pepper, a play on the same preparation with buffalo mozzarella... I don't know if other people are doing this, but it's absolutely brilliant, and delicious.

They were doing something similar to this, either at Ssam Bar or Noodle Bar.

Sounds good...I have to give it a try.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...