- scene: Small spot with tables along one wall; brightly lit yet cozy and simple
- sip: Sake to me
- savor: Everything; sashimi; sweet corn fritters; SOUP
- sit: With a date that you are not afraid to slurp with; with your parents for a casual dinner in the hood or a friend
- spend: $$$
- address: 309 East 83rd Street #2
- phone number: (212) 737-5656
- website: www.itoen.com/donguri
Picture this: Union Square, Halloween evening, people everywhere, you can’t take two steps without a drunk super hero yelling in your face or seeing unnecesasrily exposed body parts. Mayhem. Madness. Now imagine the furthest thing from that, a little oasis of calm and quiet all the way on 83rd Street where you won’t pass anyone else on the sidewalk and there is not a drop of fake blood to be seen. And this place has the best noodle soups in the city and sashimi that will make you blush. This place is Donguri, and it exists. (Just to prove that I am not a bah humbug when it comes to Halloween, see below for my Amanda Bynes costume that I wore to a party the Saturday before Halloween.)
Boyfriend and I were going to see a performance at Cafe Carlyle later that evening, and originally I thought that Donguri was an odd choice for our pre-show meal; I was looking for a lot of bustle and hustle, but in its way Donguri has a quiet, buzzing energy. We both were dressed up (more couture than costumes) and Donguri felt like an adult place; the space is simple and very tiny, but the food and service are very deliberate in a uniquely Japanese way. Let’s be clear, it is pretty no frills, but not in a Spartan extreme way; it is still fairly welcoming, maybe because it is the size of a large walk in closet.
The staff is friendly and polite, but not completely adept at English; I could see this being an issue with customers who needed help navigating the menu, especially the raw fish options. The menu is a combination of sashimi dishes (no sushi) and noodle dishes. My pictures can sum up the amazingness of this meal just about as well as words can, so take a peek below.
My Ikura sashimi was marinated in something light and served in a small martini type glass with a spoon, a small mound of wasabi resting on top. There is nothing better than spooning piles of Ikura into your mouth and having it burst, it was transcendent. The portion is fairly large, especially with a little spoon. The tempura sweet corn fritters were as advertised, sweet and bright as if the kermels were transported directly from summer; this dish was not heavy or greasy, just sweetly satisfying and more complex than it would appear.
Enough foreplay, on to the main event: Soups. Boyfriend got buckwheat noodles with Shrimp Tempura and egg. His soba noodles were perfection, and his broth was dark and deep. The egg adds a litle bit of yolky richness, and the whole thing benefitted from a shake of the spice bottle. The tempura shrimp is done right, I just wish it was on the side because it got a lttle soggy. I got Udon noodles with shrimp tempura, and the udon were the thinnest I have ever seen. My broth was more clear (yellow?) but still salty and warming. Both dishes were extremely well executed, and they made us extremely happy.
Full of soup and sake, we headed into the night, nothing scary about this Halloween treat, not even the bill. Go to this place now but definitely make a reservation. You’re welcome.