Don Don Izakaya

Don Don Izakaya opened in 2012 at the very beginning of Toronto’s izakaya trend and has stood it’s ground against the many new arrivals. I am always impressed by the selection of their sake menu and was introduced to my favourite sake, You’s Time, at Don Don. While the food has been less consistent, I had a great time on my last visit and really enjoyed the majority of the dishes we tried.

Atmosphere: Occupying the second floor of a building, Don Don is a block away from the Eaton Centre and close to both Ryerson and the University of Toronto, meaning a lot of their diners are students. I like to visit either early in the night (5pm) or late (after 9pm) and can usually get a table without any trouble. The interior decor is predominantly wood and a large drum is used to welcome customers. The servers do yell less than other izakayas and in general Don Don had a more relaxed, less frantic vibe. I can savour a drink and order dishes without feeling guilty for occupying my table too long.

Service: Our servers were efficient and professional. Dishes arrived quickly and we were introduced to each as it was set down. We dawdled with our drink orders and the server had to check up on us several times, each time she had a smile and didn’t rush us through any decisions.

Food: Following my usual routine at izakayas, we tried to order mostly from the special menu and of course tako wasabi. Our dinner ended up being Shaka Shaka Nankotsu (deep fried chicken cartilage), Ra-Yu Udon, Sashimi Salad, Takoyaki Pizza, Steamed Shabu Shabu and Kimchi Udon. Don Don also offers great daily drink specials that we took advantage of.

The bowl of tako wasabi was standard and did not come with any seaweed on the side, which I didn’t mind. I really liked the Shaka Shaka cartilage; served in a paper bag with a curry seasoning powder on the side. Dump the spices in the bag, roll up the bag opening, shake and voila. Each piece was crunchy, crispy and seasoned. This reminded me of my favourite meal from McDonalds in Japan, the Shaka Shaka chicken that I must’ve eaten daily while I was in Tokyo. So good.

After the fried chicken, the sashimi salad was a nice change. Fresh sashimi and a light, citrusy dressing made the dish very refreshing. Our next item, the takoyaki pizza, was heavier and I’m still not sure if I liked it. The dish consisted of 5 takoyaki balls served in a escargot dish and topped with tomato sauce and cheese. The concept was cool, but the flavours weren’t cohesive and the dish still felt like two things being mashed together. I personally, would’ve prefered just the melted cheese topping, skip the tomato sauce.

Both udons were amazing; perfect noodles, strong flavours and a good amount of spice. The chilli oil in the Ra-yu noodles was super spicy and really stood out on the backdrop of classic asian flavours made with garlic, green onion and ginger. The kimchi udon was deliciously saturated with kimchi and a favourite of mine. We also tried the steamed Shabu Shabu, which I hadn’t seen on the menu before. Slices of pork belly was steamed along with vegetables and served with a dipping sauce. The dish was ok but not spectacular. I would stick to their hotpot dish.

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Don Don Izakaya
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