It seems that recently, the interest for Japanese Don inspired dishes has reached a feverish pitch in Singapore. And who can blame us? They are so damn delicious. The Japanese rice, the smoky seared beef, and that oh-so-tempting yolk oozing out from the poached egg is just ABSOLUTE HEAVEN. Honestly just thinking about it makes me want to run out and get one right now.
ehhhmegedddd so delishush
Originating in Japan's Edo era, Donburi or rice bowl, was created as an easy and economical dish for theatre goers. Usually served with one main and one side dish, and complimented by a bowl of miso soup, the dish rose to it's cult following soon after it's conception.
The Fat Cow Donburi ($38) by danandesther.tumblr.com
The best part about Donburi is that it comes with a wide range of places to taste it in. Some are really bougie like infamous Fat Cow at Camden Medical Centre, which reigns supreme in it's own category of high end cut of meat and way of cooking.
As the demand for the dish grow however, so does the prices for the Dons served in most restaurants. Fortunately for us, that hasn't stopped highly creative home grown chefs that are serving up Japanese Dons inspired dishes that will absolutely satisfy your cravings but won't break the bank.
1. Gyu Nami - Amoy Food Centre
Gyu Nami, who's name -as I have recently learned- roughly translates to "Waves of Beef" perfectly fills the current market gap for good quality Donburi with slightly more premium cut of meat at a more affordable price. I have heard about this place from a lot of my friends and definitely have seen pictures of it on social media.
For only $10, Gyu Nami serves up delicious, smoky slices of wagyu beef and a bed of steaming Japanese white rice. A freshly poached egg is carefully placed on top (welcome to the #YolkLyfe) and served with a fresh cabbage leaf. The thing that really intrigued me (and why Gyu Nami felt a bit more fusion rather than fully authentic Japanese) was the sauce that they placed on top. The sauce tasted very creamy with a little bit of heat from the black pepper, and if I can venture a guess, Sriracha sauce? Or something that tastes very close to it.
All in all the combination of the delicious wagyu slice, the richness of the yolk, and the creaminess of the sauce mixes beautifully with the rice. Shout out to the owner who gave me extra serving of the sauce, because that shit was #Dope.
My only thing about this dish is that it was slightly too little for me. Now my friends who came along with me felt that the serving was "just nice" for them. But I grabbed a muffin right after lunch because I wasn't that full. My friend, Grace, made a good point that there are so many shops that you can buy little tidbits around Gyu Nami though, so it wouldn't be too big of a deal if your'e still feeling a bit peckish after lunch.
2. The Burning Oak - Simpang Bedok
Don't let the english name fool you, this place serves up some legit Japanese inspired dons. When I visited this place for the first time, the snaking queue seems to be quite a good indication about the quality and price for the Don. The two dishes that they are famous for are the Truffle Wagyu Cap ($14) and my ultimate favourite Iberico Pork Cheek Bowl ($12).
Word of warning, I am extremely biased towards this Pork Cheek Bowl. I LOVE IT and if I can have it everyday for lunch I would. Unfortunately, it's not extremely good for my wallet (and my heart lol). You know when people tell you, "Oh, wow this melts in your mouth"? I finally experience that with the this pork cheek. It was absolutely amazing. Though the price is slightly over my budget, being $12 and all, it's totally worth it. The rice was perfectly fragrant and hold incredible well with the juicy meat. I mean look at that crust and caramelisation! For only $12?? That's absolutely insane.
Not really into Iberico Pork? Fret not, their Wagyu beef is pretty good as well. The cut of the beef is pretty thick and generous and absolutely worth it as well. Though I've got to admit that there are better tasting Wagyu beef out there, the meat is very tender and the price to taste ratio is pretty excellent.
Overall, I am absolutely in love with The Burning Oak for their pork cheek bowl. Though I would travel all the way to Simpang Bedok for it, I honestly just wish that they're located closer to town. (The Burning Oak if you're reading this, please do it because I WILL BE THERE)
3. Five Ten - Chinatown
If you guy have read my review for Five Ten, y'all already know that this place is a pretty reliable place to go for rice bowls. Before you go around screaming "But this is Taiwanese not Japanese" I totally hear you guys. But since we're here for Japanese inspired dons I felt that their rice bowl is a worthy contender.
I mean look at those slices! They THICC as hell! For only $10, I feel like this is the exact reason why my colleagues and I are back again and again to this place. Similar to the other Japanese inspired dons, the don is served with a side of vegetable and poached egg. My only gripe with their don is the rice. Again I know that this is not a Japanese dish, but I do wish that it was the case because I felt that it would've complimented it better. My colleagues have zero complains though, so it's probably just me.
An advantage that Five Ten have over the other places is simply the sheer amount of options for delicious side dishes that are priced for only $5. If you guys haven't yet, check out my full review for the place here!
Stay Fullish Verdict
To be fair all of these places are winners in my heart and I would go back to each one of these places again and again for affordable Japanese inspired dons. When it comes to taste The Burning Oak is a clear winner for me. That pork cheek is straight up fire. When it comes to affordability and location, Gyu Nami and Five Ten are very strong contenders. Five Ten being slightly ahead simply because of the ambience and side dishes that they have. Have you guy ever tried one of these (or all of these) places before? HMU and let me know what you think!
7 Maxwell Road #02-126 Amoy Street Food Centre,069111
Operating Hours: 11.00 am to 3.00 pm (Closed on Sundays)
The Burning Oak
348 Bedok Road #02-16, 469560
Operating Hours: 12.00 pm to 02.00 pm, 06.00 pm to 10.00 pm (Closed on Mondays)
237 South Bridge Rd, Singapore 058786
Operating Hours: 10.00 am to 2.30 pm, 6.00 pm to 10.00 pm (Closed on Sundays)