Reviewed by Annie Namba on May 2, 2012
Hole in the wall, underground... hole in the ground?
So the name's a little boring. Just "Donburi"? Could they be any less creative?
Sure, we already reviewed our favorite donburi place, but we tried this one on a whim, and it was different enough to merit a new review. Plus, we don't come here for the donburi, really.
This place has a different kind of atmosphere, a more relaxed feel that you won't find at a chain like Tanuki Donburi. There seem to be just two workers, an older lady and a man who appears to be the owner.
It is located on the first basement floor, and would be hard to spot just walking down the street. We stop by often on evenings when I don't really feel like cooking. It is on the small side, with just seven or so tables. Every time we visit, there are just one or two tables occupied, so it doesn't seem especially popular.
Given all this, and the low prices, we didn't come in with high expectations. We ordered some of our usual favorites: chicken karaage don for Aaron and tempura don for me. Feeling particularly hungry, we also got a side of salmon sushi.
After ordering, salad, side dishes and miso soup are served. Of these, the salad was exceptional. It is a simple mix of finely chopped cabbage and lettuce, with a dressing I've never tasted before. I can't really pin-point what is in the dressing, but it has just the right amount of saltiness and sweetness, blended just a bit to a coarse consistency, refreshing to the palate.
Dressing on this salad is particularly good.
The salad raised our expectations for the food a bit, but the two donburi orders came out so-so. Aaron's chicken karaage tasted like it was done homemade style (less salty, less crispy). Which is not entirely a bad thing, and maybe this style might be a bit healthier, but Aaron still prefers the Tanuki version. My tempura don was fine, but not good enough to make me come back. The main reason was that it felt a little too greasy.
But there was one more thing that made it all worth the trip. The owner prepared three pieces of salmon sushi and it was so good, we had to come back for more. I resolved to try the salmon donburi the next time.
Salmon Sushi (3 pieces, 4000원)
In my opinion, if you're looking for the freshest salmon in Seoul, at a price that won't break the bank, this is it. Until now, I've never tasted such fresh and thick cut salmon sashimi in Korea. This is the entire reason for this review.
Salmon Donburi (8000원)
The salmon donburi comes with more salmon than rice, arranged prettily like a flower. The fresh salmon in every bite makes me just... happy.
Aaron tried the katsu don on subsequent visits. It's not worth a special trip, but still a perfectly good meal.
Katsu Donburi (6000원)
Portions are smallish so if you're feeling extra hungry or are just a big eater, give the side dishes a try. As mentioned, at just 4000원 for 3 pieces, salmon sushi is an excellent place to start.
Cheese Croquettes (3 pieces, 4000원)
We also tried the cheese croquettes, essentially mashed potatoes, breaded and deep fried, with melted cheese and donkatsu sauce on top. It's nice when you want to add some different textures to your meal.
As the simple name suggests, this place might not be an extravagant affair, but I will always return here for more salmon and relaxed atmosphere.
- Food: 4/5 - Menu items are hit-or-miss, but I say ignore everything and just go straight for the salmon. This is by far the best freshest salmon in Seoul at this price range. Besides, the salad is so tasty you might want a second serving.
- Atmosphere: 4/5 - Quiet and cozy, feels like home.
- Service: 5/5 - Relaxed feel. No blank looks, just prompt & friendly service when requested.
Getting there: It's in the same building as Dos Tacos, Dessian LUV. The building is fronted by Frisbee (an Apple Store lookalike) and Minigold. To the right of those, set back a little from the street, you'll find the stairs to go to the B-1 level.