Total Bill: $89.00 for two
The makers of Tea’s Tea — Ito En — has a cozy little secret in the Upper West Side. On a fairly nondescript block, nestled between a laundromat and residential apartment building, is Donguri, its modest Japanese restaurant that houses no more than a dozen tables or so. It’s my sister’s favorite Japanese place in the city, and she’s explored quite a number of them.
The menu is by no means cheap, but one can instantly tell its all about quality here. While the sashimi selection is limited, you can be sure it’s fresh. Same goes for the wide-ranging variety of other traditional Japanese cuisine, each delicately presented in refined portions, but at top-notch quality.
Take the sweet corn tempura. We’re still not quite sure not they make it, but each kernel was plump, still retaining strong corn flavors underneath the crispy batter.
The delightfully light sesame tofu was also great as an appetizer. In stark contrast to the fried corn tempura, the tofu was buoyant, subtle, but not bland. The faintly sweet ponzu sauce and a dab of wasabi rounded it out.
But after all that, here’s my favorite! The mound of fresh uni in an oyster shell over crushed ice. For $34, you get a handful of luscious, juicy sea raw sea urchin. Some say it’s an acquired taste, but whether you’re a fan or not, it’s not too often you find such a generous portion of this mouth-watering delicacy.
My sis had the seafood risotto, nothing like what you’d normally find at an Italian restaurant, but again delicate and light. The best part was once again the chunks of buttery uni mixed in, which I first felt was too precious of an ingredient to mixed into rice, but somehow melted in perfectly with the rest of the dish.
We ended the meal with a small cup of green tea pudding to share. Topped with fresh vanilla ice cream, the green tea was wonderfully strong through the fluffy custard, hit with an extra pump of caramel syrup underneath.
Donguri wouldn’t be the ideal place to gorge, but it’s definitely right when you’re in the mood to sit down and appreciate an exquisitely refined meal.