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Thursday, 31 January 2013

Japanese Food at Dontaku in City Square Mall, Johor Bahru

My friend Kumes have been telling me about Dontaku Japanese restaurant in City Square, one of his favourite hangouts for some time and we finally visited it together last week. City Square has mushroomed with many new eateries since its recent major renovation and has become a mini food paradise. Dontaku is one of the established tenants in City Square and is now tucked at the southern end in a relatively small space. Dontaku is near the Sakae Sushi outlet. 
Inside Dontaku, the decor is not posh but certainly well appointed. I like this interesting feature wall with various quaint looking bottles and receptacles.
These green bamboo stands serve as partitions and privacy shields in the tight, small space.
We started our meal off with a couple of this sake. I'm not sure what brand this was, I only heard Kumes telling the waiter "the usual" :P And, I didn't really pay attention as I am not a big fan of sake. Taste wise, this sake was quite smooth and pleasant.
Dontaku serves pretty good Japanese fare at very reasonable prices (especially, if you skip the sake and deserts) at a convenient location with a comfortable ambiance. For foodies and shoppers coming to City Square from Singapore by SMRT bus, Dontaku is one place for a good pit stop for Japanese food.
First up was this "hamburger steak". There were no buns but it came with a large chunk of salmon and a thick beef patty, both blanketed by a cheesy creamy Japanese mayonnaise.
I liked the salmon as it was nicely done with the usual flavour of fresh salmon which I liked. The salmon was enhanced by the savoury creamy cheesy Japanese mayo.
I am not a big fan of the "hamburger steak" but I can see that Kumes enjoyed it very much. It was a minced beef patty cooked and served with a slightly tangy, savoury gravy with lots of chopped onions. Kumes said this "hamburger" reminded him of those in Japan. It was almost like what he had "over there", he said.
The ramen came next. I usually eat ramen just to go along with my companions as I always wondered why we have to pay so much for heavily MSG laden soup and flat tasting, "lifeless" noodles. I must confess that I have not tried ramen in "higher class" Japanese restaurants - having experienced only mid-range ramen shops. So, my expectations were not high for this ramen at the simple shopping mall cafe, that Dontaku is.
Dontaku's ramen turned out to be a pleasant surprise. The broth was not laced with MSG - the umami  savouriness came from boiling stock bones the old fashioned way. I slurped up the broth noisily and by holding up the bowl in a way that would please any Japanese food connoisseur.
The ramen noodle had a certain firmness and springiness. It's not quite like the whole egg wanton noodle type of spring but the bounce was definitely there and was quite likable.
That thin slice of pork was nice too - a good balance of fat and meat. If you are a ramen fan, Dontaku's ramen range is worth a try. Good ramen and reasonable prices. 
We tried this Dontaku Bento set.  At RM18.00, this was really good value.
The three big shrimps encrusted in light crackly batter were very fresh, plump and sweet with natural juices. Yummy!
Everything else in the bento set was pretty good too.
Before our dessert, we added an order for a simple grilled salmon head to help us finish off our second bottle of sake. I am so glad that we did.
The palm sized fresh salmon head was nicely grilled. I ate up everything - all the skin, meat and gelatinous parts including the eyes, leaving only the bones. Kumes is queasy about anything gelatinous, so I got to eat most of the head :) Fish head lovers, remember to try Dontaku's grilled salmon head :)) At RM14, I think this is a very good deal.
We rounded up our meal with a couple of ice creams. This  was the first time that I tried Kuro Goma Black. I liked it for its subtle sesame flavour. RM8 a scoop, which is rather pricey.
Give Dontaku a try, if you are in City Square Mall. Nice Japanese fare at reasonable prices sans the sake and ice cream.
Restaurant name: Dontaku Japanese Restaurant
Address: Level 3, Johor Bahru City Square (near the Sakae Sushi outlet)
GPS: 1.461870,103.763401
Hours: 11:00am to 10:00pm
Non Halal
Date visited: 22 Jan 2013

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