I was lining up to get in a bar on St Paddy’s day the past weekend, when my friend had to go, so the boyfriend and I changed course and went out for dinner instead at Don Don Izakaya.
To be honest, I haven’t been on Dundas for a while and I had no idea a new restaurant, specifically an izakaya, had opened until I discovered by chance through a friend’s Facebook check-in.
Don Don Izakaya is located on Dundas St West, between Bay St and University and within a 5 minute walking distance from the Eaton Centre. It had less than stellar reviews on Urbanspoon but I went in with an open mind – I figure the worst that can happen is that I don’t like it and never go again!
It’s located on the upper floor above Topcuts and a nail salon. I think if one were walking on the street, it can be easily missed as the sign downstairs is quite subtle. I arrived a little before 6 pm on a Saturday and it was surprisingly… pretty full for a day when everyone’s out at the pubs!
Similar to Guu Izakaya, its staff consist entirely of Japanese people and guests are welcomed in with shouts and the bang of drums. We were seated by the bar, which was great as we got to see everything in action. The waiters use ipads to take orders – what a great use of technology!
We started off with their themed St Patrick’s Day drinks, where I got the Matcha Kalula and him the Matcha Capico. Both were good, though it depends how much you like matcha. The matcha with the kalula tasted heavy with a very strong green tea taste compared to the capico that was light and refreshing.
Next came the Wasabi Seaweed chips which were really delicious. They were basically seaweed deep fried, with wasabi dressing on top. I only wished the bottom chips were coated with sauce as well!
The cook in charge of skewers were right in front of us, making skewers non-stop, so I got the bacon wrapped asparagus skewer which was pretty good as well.
The Atlantic Salmon and Egg Salad (bottom left) was a featured item on their menu so I decided to try it out. Unfortunately, the amount of salmon in there is minimal so all you really get is an egg salad and a large piece of bacon. As much as I love eating eggs, I found this dish to be a tad disappointing.
The salad was followed by the Fwhat Fwhat Steamed Pork buns. The buns weren’t as good as the most amazing delicious ones I had while in NYC, but they were still very good. The bun was super soft and it tastes like eating Chinese peking duck with oyster sauce (in a good way).
Next, we got another one of the menu recommendations – the soy milk tofu. It comes with a little jar of slightly salty sauce. I wasn’t a huge fan of the tofu either. Another recommendation fail. I didn’t really enjoy the flavour of the tofu with the sauce, though without it, it tasted bland!
The next menu item was the steamed shabu shabu. Flavour-wise it tasted good with the sauce, but why did the chef choose to make it look so bland to the point that it looks a bit unappetizing, with a few slices of pork belly on top of bean sprouts and the occasional mushroom! I probably could’ve done without it.
I could not help myself and ordered the bacon wrapped mushroom skewer. You really can’t go wrong with bacon, so this was good too, though I preferred the avocado version more.
The boyfriend was captivated by the Tokyo Style Hot Dog, so we gave that a try. In all honesty, it is simply a hot dog, but the flavours they top it with was amazing. This gourmet hot dog was pretty delicious, though I still didn’t quite figure out what’s meant by “Tokyo Style”.
We couldn’t decide which dessert to order, so the boyfriend spoiled me with not one, but two desserts! Both were really good in its own way. The green tea mousse was more of a jelly than a mousse, and topped with sweet red bean for flavouring.
The caramel pudding was really good if you like custard. I really quite enjoyed this one over the mousse as I found the red bean to be overly sweet.
Maybe it’s what I ordered, but I wasn’t blown away by the experience. At the same time, I would be open to coming here again. Certain dishes were pretty good, and it’s new and clean. It offers a good alternative to Guu given that its dishes are totally different so there’s a few I’d still like to try like their croquette and the udon. Service was pretty good and the staff was pretty fast in taking our plates away. For 10 dishes and 2 drinks, it wasn’t exactly cheap, with our final bill adding up to $60 something plus tip and tax, but it was a nice night out. Worth giving it a try!