Zeroing in on Donburi
Regardless of what type of Japanese restaurant you venture to — be it a high-end sushi spot, casual tempura bar or convenient takeout stop — you’re likely to come across a section of the menu dedicated to donburi, or Japanese rice bowls.
These simple combinations of rice, protein and veggies don’t always get as much attention as other goodies on the menu, but donburi are still universally adored for their fuss-free appeal. And since they’re typically a quick and inexpensive meal, they’ve become my go-to lunch during any busy work week. As I’ve learned, you can’t let the simplicity of donburi fool you, however. Take a closer look at these one-bowl wonders and you’ll find they’re just as refined as any classic Japanese dish.
THE CHOICE IS YOURS
Part of what attracts customers to donburi is the fact that they can be made with just about any topping imaginable. You can see that at Teishoku Restaurant, where the menu is filled with eight donburi options ranging from Ahi Poke Don to Spicy Salmon Don, and everything in between.
During a recent trip to the eatery, vice president Jason Zhang helped me narrow down the choices by recommending the best-selling Ahi Poke & Natto Don ($12.25). Just when I thought my decision-making was done, I also got to select from white, brown or sushi rice, to complete my bowl.
Now, I know not everyone enjoys natto, but for those of us who appreciate the rich, fermented flavor of the ultra-healthy soybean specialty, this dish tastes like paradise in a bowl.
“Natto is super healthy, and we get ours from Japan,” explains Zhang, adding that the poke isn’t too shabby either. It’s made with fresh sashimi-grade fish brought in from the Honolulu Fish Auction, and it’s marinated with all the goodies you could ask for — including limu, shoyu, green and white onions, sesame seed oil, a hint of spice and more.
Donburi comes with miso soup, and you can supplement your meal with one of Teishoku’s fresh sushi rolls — such as Hamachi Avocado Roll ($8.75), another customer favorite. And if you have time to sit back and relax, you’ll love savoring every last bite of the restaurant’s signature teishoku sets, presented with miso soup, salad, an entrée selection, rice and a host of small appetizers. The eatery, which offers convenient and affordable dining, is particularly known for its No. 1 misoyaki butterfish.
Kamehameha Shopping Center
1620 N. School St., Kalihi
FILL UP ON THIS
The next time you sit down to an exciting meal at Genki Sushi, where in all your favorite nigiri, sushi rolls and Japanese flavors drift past you on its famous conveyor belt — or zip right to your table at the locations with the high-tech Bullet Express delivery systems — keep an eye out for delectable donburi. After all, when a few bites of that spicy tuna roll just aren’t enough to satisfy your cravings, donburi offers a bigger portion of your must-have bites to get you feeling satisfied.
Snag your share of Teriyaki Chicken Bowl with steamed white rice or Spicy Tuna Bowl with sushi rice before the next table can grab them.
“Teriyaki Chicken is the most popular donburi,” says director of purchasing David Moon, noting that it is especially loved by keiki of all ages. “Spicy Tuna Bowl also is really popular among everybody,” he adds.
Genki Sushi also has found a way to put a local spin on donburi with its Kalbi Bowl, consisting of the kamaaina-approved Korean-style meat on a bed of steamed white rice.
All of Genki’s donburi are served on silver plates, which, on Oahu, are priced at just over $4 apiece (exact prices vary). Best of all, the ideal portion of these bowls ensures you don’t leave hungry, but your tummy will still have room for all the additional sushi selections you desire.
Genki Sushi has been sharing its beloved and budget-friendly sushi and Japanese fare with islanders since the early ’90s, and it currently has nine branches on Oahu, as well as a handful on the outer islands. Visit genkisushiusa.com to find the nearest Genki in your neighborhood.
888 Kapahulu Ave., Kapahulu (and various locations)