Donguri, NYC 5

April 21, 2009

Linda and I think of Donguri as one of our neighborhood restaurants, but, in fact, we had not been for over two years until we returned with Barbara on April 15, 2009.  Donguri has a very high 27 rating in Zagat, but doesn’t make the “Best Japanese” list as it doesn’t get voted on by enough diners.

It was a lovely spring evening for our twenty minute walk. As usual, the welcome in Donguri’sdna little dining room was warm, but somewhat perfunctory. Our name was already on the table reserved for us. The drinks menu came and we ordered a bottle of Otokoyama Tokubetsu Junmai sake. The menu described it as “Very dry. Full bodied and crisp.” Which it was.

A little amuse-gueule of yam potato cake arrived.

It had a piquant shard of hot red pepper on top which woke up the palette if one ate it. The cake was gummy amd a little sweet. Okay.

Barbara ordered for her meal an
Inaniwa Udon Noodle Soup with Shrimp Tempura
This was fairly conventional although there was a nice smokiness to the broth. I do not see the point of making good crisp tempura and then drowning it.

Linda and I shared a series of courses with Barbara sampling them.
Our first dish was
Sesame Tofu
This tofu made in the house is especially recommended by the chef. It is nice, but so subtle that the dab of good house wasabi is too much. There was a little pitcher of thin soy sauce served with this that went well and was needed to perk it up.

Bamboo Shoot Sashimi

This was also specially recommended by the chef, Hitoshi Kagawa, who writes in his section of Donguri’s website:

“When I am able to find fresh bamboo shoots (Takenoko), I introduce it on the menu as a simply sliced “Sashimi” after gently boiling the shoots. I then serve it with a Wasabi Shoyu. The tenderness and sweetness of the bamboo shoot is delectable and pairs nicely with the Japanese sake “Harushika Shibori Bana”.”

Like the tofu, this was delectable, but quite subtle. We probably should have been by ourselves admiring the moonlight on the cherry blossoms to best appreciate these two courses rather than on East 83rd Street.

Sea Urchin Sashimi

This is a highlight of a Donguri meal for us. The quality of the sea urchin was outstanding. It reinforced the reservations I expressed about the sea urchin served at Momofuku Ko two weeks before. A little of the house wasabi and soy sauce brought out the wonderful flavor.

Broiled Marinated Black Cod

The soy marinade brings out the good flavor of the cod. The excellent vegetables seemed to be sauteed slices of some kind of radish and a greenish noodle. 

Grilled Lamb from New Zealand

I would not have thought of ordering this except that the chef recommends it both on the menu and on the website where he writes:

“This dish is a signature favorite on our Donguri menu. Why not enjoy this flavorful lamb from New Zealand grilled with fresh thyme. What makes this dish unique is that I have created sauces that combine East and West flavors, marrying the best of all cultures. A robust “Felino” Malbec wine from Mendoza, Argentina will enhance this dish and pair wonderfully.”

We really did enjoy this dish a lot. If the lamb was frozen en route from New Zealand, the flavor and texture had not suffered from it. I have no idea what was in the chef’s sauce.  The rib bones were a handy way to pick up each chop and gnaw on it. There were delicious garlicky vegetables underneath. The last glasses of our sake bottle went surprisingly well with the lamb.

For dessert Barbara had
Green Tea Ice Cream with Red Bean Sauce

My dessert was

The four little rice cakes underneath were chewy with a bit of sweetness, but were really a vehicle for the excellent red bean sauce of the house.

Obviously we enjoyed our meal, even though the start was a bit slow for our sensibilities. The restaurant was superficially exactly the same as it was at our previous visit over two years before. But it seemed somewhat changed in character. More of the clientèle was there for just two or three dishes. That was true both of those of apparent Japanese origin and of the others. There was one table of two Japanese men who were having a major meal. Their meal and, to a lesser extent, ours were the only signs that we were in one of the most deservedly highly-rated Japanese restaurants in New York. Although the restaurant was full at mid-evening, there were empty tables before and after. One table was seated without a reservation. Donguri can be very expensive, but our meal this time was less than $85 each including sake, tax and tip. We recommend it.

The sisters are enjoying their meal.

To see our four previous meals at Donguri click here.

Donguri‘s website:

One Response to “Donguri, NYC 5”

  1. John Rutherfurd Says:

    On Sunday April 26 Carol and I had dinner at Donguri, to which Mike and Linda had introduced us.
    Among the Chef’s Recommendations that evening were (a) toro and tuna sashima, and (b) soft shell crabs. Both were excellent and the toro was sublime. We also had (1)kumamoro oysters, very nice taste, but a little less meaty than usual, (2) sweet corn tempura, always fun, and the rice cake and red beans.
    We greatly enjoyed the evening.

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