THE PRE - IS DONBURI
Before the Yelp Elite Event at Five Bar, Sandy (Hungry Again) and I decided to grab a bite to eat. I gave her a few options that were relatively close to Mt Lawley and she had decided on Is Donburi in Northbridge. Having gone three times previously, Sandy convinced me that I was definitely in for a good experience! I'd knowingly walked past many times after hearing some mixed feedback about their takeaway sushi. Is Donburi is very conveniently located and very popular, but I was skeptical about on the quality of the food itself.
Unbelievably so, Sandy has actually ordered roughly the same thing nearly every single time. I've got to give it to Is Donburi; it's a very fresh salad and the Apple dressing is definitely unique. I can imagine that it would be a very enjoyable Summer dish - the green flecks of Granny Smith apple are not only visable, but also leaves a sharp tang on the tip of your tongue. Personally, I thought it was a little too sour and I'm definitely more inclined to enjoy this chirashi style with the fresh seafood over seasoned rice instead. Although the dressing was great, the flavours are a little distracting and it takes away from the true flavours of the sashimi.
I can definitely see the appeal of Is Donburi's food - it's inexpensive as compared to the usual Japanese flair and also has rather unique offerings. My first recollection of Is Donburi was watching a slightly intoxicated friend inhale a sushi roll that had a giant, deep fried spring roll in the middle!
I thought that the best way to try a variety of things that Is Donburi has to offer, was to dig into one of their Bento Boxes...it was huge! In the I-Bento, customers get to choose between Teriyaki Chicken, Tofu, Pork, Fish or Beef; I asked for a recommendation and the waitress suggested chicken. I was impressed by the generosity and it could very well be shared between two!
As much as it feels like you're getting your money's worth in quantity - sometimes, I'd settle for less if it means every component is executed consistently. The sushi rolls were very dry, especially because of the tuna filling - a little kewpie mayonnaise and seasoning would have gone a long way to loosen it up. The fried aspects were all negligible; the salmon was over cooked, the tempura prawn wasn't cooked tempura style and the gyoza had barely any filling inside. It felt like they were just placed in the bento for the sake of filling a compartment.
Within my bento, there were 7 thick cut slices of sashimi; 3 salmon, 2 kingfish and 2 tuna. You get what you pay for and the texture of the tuna especially wasn't particularly pleasant. However, it's fresh and generous - most customers would be willing to pay the price of the bento box in order to enjoy having sashimi too, considering that high end Japanese restaurants will charge about the same for sashimi alone. I particularly liked the salmon sashimi and have noticed a lot of pictures on Instagram of their Salmon Tasting Platter ($22.00) which I would gladly try next time.
As promised, the chicken was definitely a great choice for the I-Bento set. I really enjoyed the extremely crispy skin which stayed so, despite how the rich, teriyaki sauce that soaked into each individual piece. I particularly appreciated the kick of the Japanese chilli powder and the crunchiness of the black and white sesame seeds too. The teriyaki chicken definitely saved the other aspects of the bento and it makes me curious to try their other main dishes.
Considering how extensive their menu is; I know that I've just barely touched the surface of what they can offer. The food here is generous and affordable, but it definitely doesn't showcase the best quality of Japanese food. The service was barely there too; we had to ask for things like tea and cutlery a few times despite the fact that the restaurant was only half full. The Japanese dining scene in Perth is very competitive and so far, Is Donburi have definitely done enough to make a name for themselves. I'd be open to giving them another try but unfortunately as a first impression, I wasn't that particularly blown away.
THE POST - BEAUFORT STREET MERCHANT
After the Yelp Elite Event; four slightly hungry souls headed down Beaufort Street, in search of nibbles and a nightcap. I had previously written about 5 must-try offerings from Beaufort Street Merchant and have always categorised them as being a consistently reliable restaurant for dinners of any occasion. Just as we popped in, the remaining customers were finishing their meals and slowly trickling out whilst we waited for our meals. It was definitely disappointing to discover that Martine had gotten an allergic reaction to the gluten that was in the Vitello Tonnato, especially after we had specifically asked which dishes on the menu were gluten friendly.
I was a little sad to also see that my favourite hand cut chips had been done away with, but was very interested to see how the chickpea chips would fair. The chips by themselves lacked flavour, but came alive after some liberal yoghurt dipping. I didn't care much for the baby potatoes though, as the brussels sprouts were more predominant and none of the actual truffle flavours came through.
My old favourite, the BSM gnocchi didn't disappoint. Unlike my previous visit, Comte cheese was used this time instead of gruyere. The mushrooms were still impeccably prepared, with that hint of earthy truffle coming through. The toasty hazelnuts bounced off the pillowy gnocchi and I thoroughly enjoyed this perfect flavour combination again. I still wince at the small serving though, especially considering that everything else around the table was rather mediocre tonight.
We were the last ones to leave the restaurant and I did feel a little pressure to finish up and head out as soon as we were done with our meals. It was an experience that didn't showcase the best of what the Beaufort Street Merchant could offer and especially considering how the staff didn't approach Martine's gluten intolerance with more care, it does push me to consider dining a little further down Beaufort Street next time.