Diggin The DON’s fusion degustation

Like fashion, food is stylish and is based on trends that bit by bit take over a city like a wave. I can remember when I first noticed this pattern of behaviour, with bubble tea venues populating Perth all over the place. Then there was cupcakes, macarons and now donuts on the sweet side of things. And for savoury, the last 12 months has seen a sweep of Asian dishes that includes banh mi, ramen, dumplings and now bao. Oh sweet, glorious bao. 

When it comes to food of my childhood, bao is at the front and centre. Soft, fluffy, white buns encasing wobbly, gelatinous pork slices. Pillowy, steaming hot rolls filled with sweet char sui. Fried mantou begging to be dipped in chilli crab sauce. This is the stuff my food dreams are made of. 
So it would seem quite fitting that I would spend two Fridays in a row stuffing my face with bao (and other items). It all started at a pop-up restaurant in Victoria Park called The DON, and ended with at The Bao Bar. More on this second night in a separate blog post to come soon. 
It’s taken me much longer to get to The DON than I would have liked after the owner, Jonas, invited me to come down. But finally the opportunity came where I caught up with fellow foodies and we were treated to a preview of The DON’s new degustation menu. 
Located at 1 Leonard St, The DON is part of the share building which I’ve visited previously for pop-up venue The Sarapan. It was a cold, blustery night outside but inside was toasty thanks to a heater on full blast offering comfort from the wintery conditions. 
The team is small but the night went smoothly, with each course coming out quite quickly. We start things off with a small bowl of ramen each – the choice between a miso char siu ramen and a spicy tom yum ramen. I chose the latter, but I have to say that miso char siu looked so good! Especially with the runny egg and the lovely caramelised pork slices. 

The tom yum is definitely spicy – I can feel the heat of the chilli wash over me. It’s got some real kick, but the flavour is great. I really enjoy the ramen noodles which are al dente and the perfect accompaniment to the perfectly cooked prawns which snaps satisfactorily as I bite down.

Be warned though: if you can’t handle the heat, you’re probably better off getting the other option instead.

Next up was the Bao course. We were given three bao to share between two people (the quantities for the actual degustation were still being finalised that night, so I’m not sure if this is the standard amount).

The flavours were char siu bao, crispy cheeky bao and sang choi bao. Just reading the descriptions was making my mouth water. I was expecting big things, especially since my mum makes a pretty amazing gua bao. It’s always hard when you have a family recipe benchmark to compare against restaurants but I was optimistic nonetheless.

The sang choi bao was a hilarious offering we were all giggling over, noting it was a sang choi bao in bao. The beef was lightly spiced, the bean sprouts crunchy. I was worried how the lettuce would work but it was a nice contrast and offered freshness to each bite.

The next bao we tried was the char siu which was again the same fluffy bao outer, but an unctuous slow cooked piece of pork inside. It didn’t have as strong a char siu flavour as I’d have liked, but I sit in the camp of punchy sauces. The meat though was cooked perfectly and had that ideal fat to meat ratio.

Unsurprisingly my favourite bao was easily the crispy cheeky which had yuzu mayonnaise, slaw and a very generous slab of karaage chicken. Oh crunchy heaven, welcome to my mouth.

Whenever I think of poultry, for me there’s nothing like fried chicken. Especially one like this – well seasoned, succulent and just plain delicious. It’s different to more traditional styles of karaage but I like the fusion style and really appreciated just how crunchy it was! I felt like you could hear me chewing a mile away.

The third course was all about burgers, with everyone given the choice of a different bun and a different filling. I was starting to feel really full by then so I gave a longing look at the ramen burgers and decided to opt for brioche instead once Jonas confirmed the could do a slider version instead. Damn my limited stomach space.

I am definitely going back to try those ramen burgers though – they look too good to miss out on. Especially when there’s more of that karaage chicken sandwiched between – mmm!

Because the team at The DON are way too generous, those single sliders turned out to be a trio and surrounded by a pile of fries. Plus some dipping sauces of DON mayo, yuzu mayo and a relish. I thought the chips were really something great – well seasoned, crisp on the outside and fluffy in the centre. I can be a bit of a chip snob and these hit the mark. 
My karaage burger was full of that generous chicken from earlier, the brioche buttery and soft. The yuzu mayonnaise is really different to anything I’ve tried before – and so addictive. I couldn’t stop dunking my food in it and munching away. I enjoyed it so much!

Our epic feasting finished off with a slice of matcha crepe cake. Layers and layers of crepes are stacked to create this light and soft cake that’s creamy and has a punchy green tea flavour. Word on the street is there’s a durian flavour too – I’m looking forward to trying that!

I couldn’t quite finish but that was no problem, with handy take away containers given to me to pack a little doggy bag to enjoy at home (which Jeremy was very happy to accept when I walked through the door).

A big thanks to Jonas and the team at The DON for hosting us and treating us to some tasty food! I can’t wait to head back soon for more of that karaage in particular, that alone is worth a trip there.

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8 Comments

  • Reply
    Martine @ Chompchomp
    22 June 2015 at 3:09 am

    It's a cute little pop up venue on Leonard street, and 5 mins walk from my house! You could have popped in for a coffee!

  • Reply
    Sandy @ Hungry Again
    22 June 2015 at 5:40 am

    Hahaha that 'Ladies: No shirt, free drinks' sign! I think they'd be pretty intimidated if someone took that on!

  • Reply
    Queen of Bad Timing
    22 June 2015 at 12:30 pm

    I'll have to remember that for next time! I love the idea of this venue, housing lots of different pop up venues so they share the cost of rent/bills etc. So clever! And lets new businesses crack into the market 🙂

  • Reply
    Queen of Bad Timing
    22 June 2015 at 12:31 pm

    Haha yes, we were so amused by that sign when we saw it!!

  • Reply
    WenY
    23 June 2015 at 11:59 am

    Oh my! I so wanted to try Don! If only I had more time on hand! That is one proper Mille Crepe! So many people call their Mille but only offer 5 layers =.=! Lovely post! Definitely on my radar the next RNR! Was this lunch or dinner by the way? Their opening times are showing until 3am which I am doubtful haha.

  • Reply
    AlissaandDon
    23 June 2015 at 3:17 pm

    Oh wow, this looks really cool… love seeing more casual food served in degustation format – its such a great way to eat that it should not be reserved just for fine dining.

    And RAMEN! I have to get around to here at some stage!

  • Reply
    Queen of Bad Timing
    3 July 2015 at 3:10 pm

    They have a durian flavour too I see on instagram for their mille crepe! Definitely worth going by 🙂 this was for dinner on a Friday night – I think they've changed their hours lately so make sure you check their insta or FB!

  • Reply
    Queen of Bad Timing
    3 July 2015 at 3:11 pm

    Haha I thought seeing ramen might pique your interest! I'm not sure it's proper ramen, more just the use of ramen noodles – but still yummy 🙂 I love having degustations that are more relaxed and a fun way to sample lots of dishes!

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