Is Donburi the New Ramen?
A year ago, D.C. diners had no reason to know the term "donburi." These days, the Japanese rice bowl dish has shown up on a number of menus around town and even headlines a new Adams Morgan restaurant called—what else?—Donburi. The dish consists of lightly sauced white rice topped with fried, simmered, braised, and raw meats, fish, and veggies of all sorts. Like ramen, it’s the perfect winter comfort dish.
Chef Katsuya Fukushima serves up D.C.’s most diverse selection of donburi during lunch at the izakaya upstairs, taking inspiration from Filipino, Korean, Hawaiian, and Japanese flavors. His take on the Hawaiian diner specialty loco moco includes hambagu (Japanese hamburger steak) with fried egg and brown gravy over rice. The sisig donburi showcases Filipino sizzling pork hash and a slow-boiled egg. Other options include donburi with grilled eel and sansho peppers as well as poke tuna sashimi with scallions, nori, and marinated cucumber. The rice at Daikaya shouldn’t be overlooked either—the individual grains never clump.
Pictured: Confited and braised pork belly, fried egg, and kimchi
Kushi Izakaya & Sushi
Kushi revamped its lunch menu a few weeks ago and now offers three sushi donburi with salmon, tuna, and other sashimi on top, plus sweet Japanese curry bowls with chicken, pork cutlets, or vegetables. Owner Darren Lee Norris also has a food truck, Kushi Moto, that serves donburi. The truck has been off the road in recent months, but Norris plans to bring it back in January and change the offerings to focus on Japanese curry rice bowls.
Pictured: Spicy Zuke Tuna Don with sashimi tuna marinated in spicy soy sauce, with scallion, nori, wasabi, and quail egg
Owner James Jang runs this new Adams Morgan hole-in-the-wall with only one other employee, which means you have to be patient for your bowl. But the wait is worth it: This gem of a place turns out perfectly portioned beds of rice topped with panko-coated shrimp, pork loin, karaage fried chicken, salmon sashimi, or a tangle of battered and fried Japanese squash, onion, and carrots. Most bowls also come with a half-cooked egg. (The most expensive option includes salmon and uni.) The 14 counter seats face the open kitchen, which means a front-row view of Jang preparing his special Donburi sauce.
Pictured: Sakedon with salmon sashimi, thinly sliced onions, reduced Donburi sauce, wasabi, and nori
Over the past month or so, Perry’s in Adams Morgan has shifted its focus from American food back to Japanese fare. (The restaurant gets its name, after all, from Navy commodore Matthew Perry, who helped open Japan up to the West in the mid-1800s.) With the menu changes come four donburi dishes. The toppings include barbecued eel, panko-crusted pork with egg, chicken teriyaki, and shrimp and veggie tempura.
Pictured: Tendon shrimp and veggie tempura
Photos by Jessica Sidman