Just thinking about the word “Wagyu” makes me salivate a little. The richly marbled meat from this treasured breed of cattle goes well with most things; served with a side of sautéed root vegetables, enveloped in a Japanese sando, paired with whisky – this has to be the little beef that could.
Picture a Wagyu mountain, towering over your bowl, topped with a golden egg yolk and the most umami and sweet barbecue sauce ever, all soaked up by pearly rice grains... or just leave your imagination behind and head to DONDONYA to try the real thing, because it’s a lot better in person.
Working with Japan’s Kumamoto Prefecture to showcase its regional delicacies, donburi expert DONDONYA has introduced a new set menu, the Kumamoto Kuroge Wagyu Don Set ($288), brimming with Wagyu beef, strawberries and pumpkin. And if you’re at all familiar with Japan’s yuru-chara culture, you’ll recognise Kumamon, one of the country’s most famous cuddly mascots, perched atop each Wagyu bowl. He’s Kumamato Prefecture’s famed “sales manager”, and it’ll be his face that customers will see branded all over the Wagyu set.
But what about the food? We loved the subtle, sweet notes of the miso soup – just the palate-cleansing thing to whet our appetites and get the meal started. The strawberry soda, using nationally ranked strawberries from Kumamoto, was a refreshing zinger, a thick-bodied and fruity drink made from soda water and strawberry jam. The pumpkin salad was well intentioned, but we already had our eyes on the donburi prize while we diligently worked our way through the set meal.
And it certainly didn’t disappoint: high-grade Kumamoto Wagyu beef was roasted and draped lovingly around a mound of rice, with a silky, white sour-cream sauce and a sharp yellow-mustard sauce drizzled down the sides, crowned with an egg yolk. Pour some yakiniku sauce over it and you’ll be in umami wonderland. Savoury, sweet and spicy flavours came into play, with the buttery slices of Wagyu existing in a league of their own. Although we balked at the high price tag at first, it finally all made sense after the first taste.
And the best part? We got to cosy up to Kumamon. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a rotund, furry mascot prep your meal. While it was disconcerting that a quasi black bear was advocating for the consumption of his Japanese neighbours, Wagyu cattle, we can’t deny that this donburi exceeded all expectations.
The Kumamoto Kuroge Wagyu Don is available now at all DONDONYA shops in Hong Kong.
This write-up is based on a complimentary media tasting provided in exchange for an honest review and no monetary compensation. The opinions expressed here represent the author’s.
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