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Donguri

Posted in Melbourne

Donguri is a Japanese-leaning eatery on the High Street of Preston. We first noticed it when we dined at Dexter – it is just across the road. It wasn’t open in the evening, but the decor inside caught our eye, and we made note of it as a place to visit one day. Donguri is “acorn” in Japanese, and the little icon is there in the name on the sign.

donguri outside
The outside of Donguri.

The industrial-style interior, with cool white walls, wood and dark metal furniture, and pendant light with cables spidering across the ceiling, was offset by pops of live greenery in the form of trailing vines from suspended pots and an assortment of terrariums at the counter.

donguri inside
A look at the interior.

Staff greeted us not long after we walked in. We were showed to a table, and water and menus were brought out. Indie folk music played in the background at a comfortable volume, present so you could hear the melody, but without being obtrusive. What did disrupt the pleasant setting though, was their painfully loud blender, the sound of which just bounced off the walls. There were also intermittent wafts of cigarette smoke coming in from the street.

dongguri terrariums
Some of the terrariums at the counter.

The menu was simply printed on unlaminated A4 paper, with food items on one side and drinks on the other. The dishes were different from the typical brunch options, with Japanese flavours and fusion in items like the Nitamago sando and Chilli folded egg omurice. We did have some difficulty deciding what to choose, but did return on another visit to try other items.

donguri menu
The available menu when we visited.

The flat white had good microfoam texture. The flavour could have been stronger though.

donguri flat white
The flat white.
donguri flat white
The flat white and latte art leaf.

This seemed the place to have a matcha latte. We certainly found it one of the better hued ones when it was brought out, and it also had cute latte art. The flavour wasn’t quite as rich or strong as hoped though, and it was quite clumpy when it settled.

donguri matcha
The matcha latte.
donguri matcha
The cute latte art.

On our return visit, we tried the hojicha latte instead. It came with another cute bear. The deep floral notes were present, but again we wanted it stronger, and with a bit more sweetness to balance it.

donguri hojicha
The hojicha latte.
donguri hojicha
Another cute character.

The Mr Miso Corn dish certainly read as an intriguing one on the menu. It listed popcorn bechamel, cheddar, mozzarella, miso, corn, seaweed, soft herbs, fermented chilli, and jalapeno and cheddar sourdough. When presented, it was quite reminiscent of a croque monsieur, with a browned cheese layer on top of the cornbread slices. The first time we visited, the bread was soft in the middle, with crunch at the edges. The cheese mix was savoury and moreish. The miso corn mix in the middle was also savoury, and just lightly sweet. It was an unusual combination that worked well. The fresh herbs, which included coriander and dill, added more flavour interest. There was a present, but not overpowering heat to the jalapeno sourdough. The fermented chilli was brightly pickly, and added even more heat, for those so inclined. We also added braised beef to the dish as an extra. The meat was tender, with sweet and salty five spice notes. The first time we had this dish, we thought it was a great mix of flavours and textures. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as good the next time we visited, with the bread being quite sodden from the mix, and without any crunch present.

donguri mr miso corn
The Mr Miso Corn, with their fermented pickled chilli separately, and added braised beef on the side.
donguri mr miso corn
A closer look at the bread, corn, and cheese combination.
donguri mr miso corn
The braised beef component closer up.
donguri mr miso corn
A look at the miso corn filling. It actually worked surprisingly well.

The other dish that quickly caught our eye was the Okomiyaki waffle. It was described as vegetable and spring onion fritter, avocado, fried egg, bonito, aonori, mayo, house-made BBQ sauce, salad of herbs, leafy greens, and pickles. This was presented with the egg, avocado, and pile of herbs actually hiding most of the waffle from view. It was actually a good rendition of okonomiyaki in the form of a waffle. All the familiar okonomiyaki flavours were there, from the combination of sweet and slightly tangy mayo and sauce. There was a good ratio of shredded vegetables to batter, again referencing what okonomiyaki is composed of. The fried egg had a soft yolk, and the fresh herbs had a similar role as in the Mr Miso Corn dish.

donguri okonomiyaki
The Okonomiyaki waffle dish from above.
donguri okonomiyaki
A glimpse of the okonomiyaki waffle, hidden under toppings.
donguri okonomyiaki
And from the other side, showing the bonito shavings.
donguri okonomiyaki
A look at what the waffle is made of.

On our return visit, we had the Chilli folded egg omurice. This had house made chilli oil and pickles, pine nut agrodolce, parmesan, and grilled vegetables. It was quite simply presented, with the folded egg swirled like an inverted nest, covering the rice. It was topped with the pinenuts and herbs. The salad occupied the other half of the bowl. The folded eggs were soft, and there were some beans mixed in with the rice so it wasn’t just plain rice. There was definitely fire to the dish, from the chilli oil. Underneath that though, it had quite mild, subdued flavours overall.

donguri omurice
The Chilli egg omurice, and salad to the side.
donguri omurice
The folded egg part closer up.
donguri omu rice
And more of the salad.

Donguri is a cosy little suburban cafe with potential. They do have different brunch options from the usual suspects. The first time we visited, we thought the dishes were brilliantly executed, with clever combinations and well-delivered components. The return visit was, unfortunately, underwhelming. If they could consistently deliver dishes as we had the first time, we could call them a suburban gem. Perhaps they can develop it in time..

donguri snacks
Some other treats you can get at the counter to round out your meal.

Scores:
Food: 3.5/4 on the first visit, 2/4 on the second.
Setting: 1/2
Service: 1/2
Total: 4/8 to 5.5/8

Price point: $17 to $24 for items more substantial than toasties.

Value: Variable. $24 for the omurice felt expensive. Other dishes were more reasonable value.

Details:
Address: 541 High Street, Preston
Phone: 03 9996 1958
Website: Donguri

 

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