Back in June, I noticed a shop in the former Fish Bucket location in Tierrasanta. The name of the place? Donburi Kitchen. In spite of the location I was fascinated; since I've long thought that a good Donburi shop making classics like Gyūdon, Tendon, Oyakodon, or Katsudon would be a great fit for San Diego. So a few weeks back I dropped by during lunch to see that they had just opened. Notice they still have awning from the Fish Bucket in place; "Seafood Market - Fish Grotto"?
Nice young man greeted me at the front door....looking around I kinda knew that my wish wasn't going to be granted here. The menu was confirmation. Poke Bowl; Ramen on the menu, spicy tuna roll, California roll (though there was Hamachi kama and Chirashi) on the chalk board. The only traditional "donburi" I saw on the menu was the Unadon. So, basically your neighborhood Japanese (in name only) jack-of-all-trades kind of place. Nothing wrong with that....but what the heck was I going to order. I asked the young man who suggested ramen; so I went with the Tonkotsu ($8) and some Chicken Karaage ($4.25).
I was a bit surprised at this as it was more "Toriten" (Chicken Tempura) than actual karaage. I quickly noticed that breast was used for this. Even though the batter quickly got soggy, the chicken was very moist and tender, with a pleasant flavor, like it had been quickly brined. Eat this quickly and it's pretty good. Not a big fan of the Sriracha Mayo though.
As much as the chicken was a pleasant surprise, the Tonkotsu Ramen was routine - except for the bok choy......first time for that in my ramen. The broth was quite indistinct, being more of a shoyu-tonkotsu kind of thing and really lacked the nice tongue coating feature that makes a good tonkotsu broth.
The noodles; standard issue, were a bit over-cooked for me. The egg was a bit of a mess, it looked like there was some trouble peeling it, but it was decent marinated and not ice cold. The one saving grace was the chashu, which was fairly tender, and had a nice flavor. This was perhaps a bit better than Izakaya Kanpai about par with Ototo, basically lower second tier ramen. Funny, a guy came in and also ordered ramen; tasted the broth, then requested Togarashi, Sriracha, and Vinegar for his ramen......
About a week later I returned, basically to go ahead and try one of the Donburi....but man; it was so darn hot. There was also one thing I wanted to try. I rather enjoyed the Chashu last time around so I started with the Ponzu Chashu, not cheap at $5.50.
This was actually pretty good, the ponzu didn't take away too much of the flavor of the chashu which wasn't particularly sweet, but had a nice shoyu-sweet flavor. It looked like the exterior had been torched/seared. Man, serve this with some negi and over rice and you'd have a decent Butadon. Chop it up and mix with negi and some of the cooking liquid and it would be a decent Chashu Gohan. Hmmm....I might request that one of these days.
I really didn't want rice on this day....but what the heck to order. Well, I gave in and tried the Poke Salad, which was priced at $7.
I gotta say; they did a pretty good job of hiding most the short comings of the fish, by coating it real well with the sauce. Lots of connective tissue, but it wasn't too tough or stringy nor was it overly mushy. The sauce seemed to use gochujang as the base; tasting like a milder "cho-jang", sweet-salty-mildly spicy. Decent amount of avocado, enjoyed the scallions, the greens not overly dressed. Would have liked a bit more onion and perhaps some tomato in this. But overall, not bad.
So, one more visit to finally try a donburi here. But first, I started with some Agedashi Tofu ($4).
The tofu had a nice molten interior but was too lightly dusted/battered as it really lacked crispness. The sauce tasted like a watered down "mentsuyu" (concentrated soup base) that had been cut with some wakame to add more flavor. It was a bit too mild for my taste.
I actually enjoyed the no-frills salad, the dressing was decently refreshing, the greens nicely dressed.
Not knowing which bowl to get, I went with the east way out and got the Teriyaki Chicken version ($7).
Fairly decent rendition of teri-chicken. The chicken breast was again nicely moist, the sauce a bit too salty for my taste, but not offensive. Dig the Vietnamese Pickled Daikon and Carrots! Not a huge portion, but good enough for a decent lunch for me.
Overall, a decent neighborhood "San Diego - Japanese" joint....I heard three people come in and ask what "chirashi" was. Very nice staff, decent prices, for some reason this place reminded me of Izakaya Kanpai (which I have to revisit one of these days) with a less ambitious menu. I was told that one of the owners was formerly part owner of Fish Attack....which kind of made sense. This was decent neighborhood food not to offend. I'd even order take-out if the place was in my neighborhood. Nothing wrong with that, right?
6030 Santo Rd
San Diego, CA 92124