Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Negiya Donburi: Expect the Unexpected

An hour has passed the twelve hundred hours when Anggita, Ambar, and I arrived at the destined gyudon restaurant. We turned up an hour early than our lunch reservation, but since we were not familiar with Sudirman Citywalk - as it was our first ever visit to the hang out place and we didn't know the whereabouts of whatever shop that we could waste our minutes at - we decided to enter the dining place and checked in for lunch on Path. 

Negiya Donburi, located at a corner on the first floor of Sudirman Citywalk, is a Japanese restaurant focusing on donburi as its' main menu. For those who are not yet familiar with what donburi is, or rice bowl dish literary translated, it is a bowl of rice with side dish on top. You can put whatever meat, vegetable, and sauce on top of it and it will still be called donburi. For example, a bowl of rice topped with beef will be called gyudon - gyu means beef in Japanese and the donburi is shortened into don because that is how things work. The same goes with unagi donburi, abbreviated as unadon, which is a bowl of rice topped with grilled eel; and katsudon, or katsu donburi, which is rice topped with whatever deep fried meat cutlet (generaly pork), egg, and condiments. 

Fortuna was on my side as I was invited by Pak Ferdinand, the manager of Negiya Donburi, to be one of the early birds that could get a first bite of the new menus that are going to be released by the time you read this blog post. Even just with its' signature menu, the Menya Gyutan Don - in which was brought directly from Melbourne, Australia, in collaboration with the O-Bento Group - Negiya Donburi has climbed the ladder of popularity. Just imagine how well known the gyudon restaurant can be with their list of new and interesting menu!

Ambar, Anggita, Pak Ferdinand, and I

The concept of Negiya Donburi's dining place is very simple and efficient. As expected from a chain of fast-food restaurant, instead of making the restaurant look more appealing so that people will feel comfortable spending hours munching and chit-chating, Negiya Donburi focusses more on the quantity of the table available for the customer to indulge their meal. The more people come to the restaurant, the more there is to sale, the more profit the restaurant gets. Smart thinking, don't you think?

The dominating red color of Negiya Donburi makes the restaurant seems warm, cozy, and somewhat homey. True, the restaurant may be lacking of decorations as there were only a few frames of Japanese related paintings and photos, but the one wall that has hand drawn sketches of cartoon cats was more than enough to attract's people's attentions.

I thought the place would be crowded during rush hours

Party of four, please!

The sight of the inner dinning area

Loving the hand-drawn wall

This rope would come in handy 

Can you believe that this painting is hand drawn?

Infused Water - Strawberry, Lemon, and Mint Leaf
We were about to chose which beverage to have to quench our thirst when one of the waitress took the liberty of recommending us one of the specialties in Negiya Donburi, the infused water. 

Negiya Donburi's infused water came in four different kinds, in which each is infused with three different elements of food stuff. The one that we had was the one with strawberry, lemon, and mint leaf in it. 

I love the presentation of the cold beverage. Other than the fact that the drink itself looked pretty and colorful, the jar-shaped glass used to contained it added an extra point. I could definitely tasted all the ingredients used to make the infused water; there was a hint of strawberry here and there, with a dash of minty sensation, plus the zesty and refreshing lemon that added a little kick into it. 

"The infused water is very light and very suitable to be consume when you are about to have a set of meaty lunch," said Anggita. I couldn't agree more. 

My glass of infused water

This water was infused with strawberry, lemon, and mint

As expected from a Japanese fast-food restaurant, it didn't take long for our dishes to be served. First came Negiya Donburi's signature dish, the Menya Gyutan Don, followed by a couple set of Original Chicken Karaage and a platter of Spicy Chicken Karaage. A few minutes later, when we had not even touch our bowl of Menya Gyutan Don yet, came the line of new dishes that are going to be launched, which were Green Chilly Beef Bowl, Japan Steak Don, and LA Karubi Don. It was pretty hectic and the table was occupied with multiple colors of food and side dishes. I was overwhelmed, yet got slightly disorientated as well.

They were one dish away from becoming piglets

Menya Gyutan Don
Menya Gyutan Don consisted of a mountain of warm and glutinous rice, topped with well cooked meat, and decorated with cuts of red chilly, green chilly, spring onion, and garlic. With a very simple, yet appealing presentation, Negiya Donburi's flagship menu managed to take captive of my heart. The color combination of the grayish brown meat and the colorful garnishment was simply gorgeous! 

The meat that they used in Menya Gyutan Don was beef tongue, and I was very surprised when Pak Ferdinand told me this because it looked very much like how normal beef would look like. I didn't know about it until the last minute we were about to leave the restaurant. "I didn't tell you guys that the meat that we use is beef tongue because I don't want to scare you off," explained Pak Ferdinand. Wise. Fortunately, Anggita, Ambar, and I are not the type of people who would get grossed out easily, so we dug in anyway. 

"The word "gyutan" literary means beef tongue in English, so it's pretty obvious to say the truth," he added. Guilty as charge. I blame myself for continuously skipping Japanese extracurricular class during High School. 

Menya Gyutan Don

At first, I thought the rice bowl dish would be an explosion of sweetness - you know, like how teriyaki would taste like? - but, I was stand corrected. The Menya Gyutan Don was in fact savory, with a high level of umami. The beef tongue was tender, like how beef would taste like, but it had this slight rubbery and flossy texture that differs from beef. I love how the garnishment added an extra kick and brought out the flavor of the beef even more. 

The dish turned out not like how I expected it would be, but in a good and delicious way that one can still definitely enjoy, especially those who favor savory dishes more than sweet dishes. Oh, and may I add that this dish is very suitable for heavy eaters, with its' pile of warm rice and generous amount of sliced beef tongue? 

Can you believe that meat is tongue?

Chicken Karaage - Spicy and Original
I'm not fond of Negiya Donburi's Chicken Karaage simply because it had too much fat and oil in it, plus it tasted too salty for me. The same goes for Anggita and Ambar. However, I liked the spicy sauce poured over the Spicy Chicken Karaage as it was sweet and spicy, and it had this rough texture of a Korean hot pepper paste which I like.  

On the other hand, the carrot and radish salad that came with it tasted more delicious than the main star itself. I just love how the salad was well marinated, but not wet and soaky like the one that Hoka Hoka Bento has. It went well with the spicy mayonnaise that came with the Original Chicken Karaage. I ended up devouring all three sets of salad because it tasted too good. 

Spicy Chicken Karaage

Chicken Karaage with Spicy Mayo 

Not my favorite karaage

Green Chilly Beef Bowl
This soon-to-be-launched set of meal consists of a bowl of warm rice with well cooked beef and onion poured on top of it, and topped with a dollop of green chilly, or sambal hijau literary translated into Indonesian. Now, who would have thought that a fusion between Japanese cuisine and Sumatran cuisine exists? Well, if you are a curious gastronomer like me, you must definitely order this new dish named Green Chilly Beef Bowl.

The meat that they used in this particular beef was very thin and had a generous amount of fat in it, making the beef extra tender with an addition of chewiness from the curly fat to the point that they almost melt in your mouth at one bite. They are cooked with a handful of chopped onion, which didn't stand out much but still added a wee bit of seasoning into the dish. I enjoyed eating this new kid in town so much simply because of the tender beef and chewy fat.

I do have to warn you that the sambal hijau was very hot and slightly bitter- and, may I remind you, that you are hearing this from a person who can't handle spicy food - yet, it played a big part in adding flavor into the dish. Just a spoonful of all of the food stuff in the bowl would take you to Japan and Sumatra at the same time. I am aware by the fact that the culture combination in this dish is uncommon, but it worked out just fine. Great in fact! If Japan and Sumatra have a love child, this would be it.

Green Chilly Beef Bowl

Just look at those fatty beef!

*excessively drooling*

Japan Steak Don
Japan Steak Don is my favorite! This dish consisted of (again, and forever will be) a mountain of warm rice, a set of medium well cooked beef tenderloin, a sunny side up, and garnished with sweet soy sauce and fried chopped garlic. I'm a big fan of fried garlic, so it was very pleasant and enjoyable for me to eat this baby up.

Judging from the ingredients used to make this dish, Japan Steak Don seemed like a fusion between America and Japan. You have the beef tenderloin and the sunny side up from the USA, while the rice, sweet soy sauce, and the fried chopped garlic used as condiments screamed Japan! Japan! Japan! I had quite a struggle to tried to work it out between both culture, but it just didn't blend as smooth as the Green Chilly Beef Bowl. Personally, I don't find the food combination in this dish worked well with each other, but that doesn't mean that each elements had its' own deliciousness.

I love the medium-well cooked beef tenderloin. As you can see in the picture bellow, the color spectrum of the steak was simply gorgeous and appealing; grayish brown on the outer ring with pink center. True, the steak would definitely tasted better if it was paired with a heap of creamy mashed potato, but it was fine with the rice and condiments. The sweet soy sauce made the steak tasted even better.

On the other hand, the combination of sunny side up with rice and condiments tasted like how breakfast at home a few years back tasted like. Mom used to make me eat rice with fried egg and soy sauce before I went to school every morning when I was in Elementary School, and this dish definitely reminded me of it.  

Japan Steak Don

LA Karubi Don
LA Karubi Don had a strong Korean presence in it. Other than the fact that the beef short ribs were garnished with shredded scallions that were bathed in Korean hot pepper paste, the dish also came with a set of Kimchi.

"Give me the Kimchi," said Anggita, "let's see if its' authentic Korean Kimchi or not." Since Ambar and I were not fond of Kimchi that much, we handed over the Kimchi to the Kimchi expert and let her decide whether or not its' up to her standards.

While Anggita busy devouring the Kimchi, Ambar and I dug into the grilled beef short ribs that tasted sweet from the soy sauce used to cook it with. Boy, were they tasted superb and amazing! The meat was tender, well cooked, and it had this amount of sweetness just perfect for my taste. Even though it was quite a challenge to peel the meat off of the bone and that the rubber-like fat was not the least bit enjoyable, it still taste delicious.

"Yep, this is real Korean Kimchi," said Anggita out of the blue. She was very satisfied with how the Kimchi tasted like authentic Korean Kimchi that she ate at the home country of K-Pop. I had to take a bite of the Kimchi to see Anggita's point, but sadly it just tasted like how spicy fermented cabbage supposed to taste like for me: sour, bitter, spicy, and tangy.

LA Karubi Don

The beef bowl came with some Kimchi

Who wouldn't love this dish?

Mochi Ice Cream - Tiramisu, Mango, and Red Bean
"I hope you still have some room left for dessert, said Pak Ferdinand. His words was music to my ear, emphasizing on the "dessert". I asked him whether this particular dessert that we were about to have is also a new menu that is going to be launched soon and was replied with, "No, it's our old menu. We haven't any plan yet to take our dessert menu to the next level, so we're sticking with the mochi ice cream." Did he say "mochi ice cream"? My heart pounded in excitement. 

A few minutes later, the waitress came out from the kitchen with three small bowls of what it seemed to be our mochi ice cream. They came in three different flavors, which were Tiramisu, Red Bean, and Mango. Each mochi ice cream was sliced into four pieces, making Anggita, Ambar, and I able to taste all of them evenly.

Mochi Ice Cream for dessert, woohoo!

For those who fancy fruity ice cream, you ought to try this particular Mango Mochi Ice Cream when you visit Negiya Donburi. The sweet and thin layer of mochi enveloped a joyous scoop of mango ice cream that bursts mango galore in your mouth in just one bite. I love how creamy and milky the ice cream was, and the fact that the mango flavor was not sweetly sickening deserves a two thumbs up. 

A surprise awaits as you bite into the center of the mochi ice cream, as there was a ribbon of strawberry sorbet in the middle that would make you question that such delicious dessert exists. I'm not a big fan of strawberry sorbet, but this one is simply enjoyable, and it went well with the milky mango ice cream. 

Mango Mochi Ice Cream

Delightful strawberry sorbet in the middle, yum!

"At first I thought it was Vanilla Mochi Ice Cream because I couldn't taste anything other than vanilla when I bite into the mochi," said Anggita, "but then I could distinguish the red bean aftertaste when the cold substance has gone from my mouth." Emphasizing Anggita's point, the Red Bean Mochi Ice Cream didn't have a strong red bean flavor in it. True, it may have bits of red beans inside the ice cream - which was very enjoyable for me as I love ice cream that has something to chew in it - but we didn't feel its' strong presence. 

The mochi ice cream might not be any of our favorites, but it was still delicious and delightful to indulge. Highly suggested for Japanese-dessert lovers, whose world revolts around matcha and azuki. 

Red Bean Mochi Ice Cream

Can you see those red bean bits inside?

Last, but not least, is the Tiramisu Mochi Ice Cream. Ambar and I were very fond of this certain dessert because we think that this is, by far, the best Negiya Donburi's mochi ice cream that we ever tasted - we even threw a rock, paper, scissors, to decide who will have the last piece of the mochi ice cream. It's a good thing Fortuna was on my side.

The slightly bitter, yet sweet, mochi layer wrapped a generous amount of Tiramisu ice cream that had bits of bitter dark chocolate in it. I just love love love the milky and creamy, sweet and bitter, Tiramisu ice cream. I would definitely come back for more!

Tiramisu Mochi Ice Cream, my favorite!

Yes, darling, come to mommy!

And, with that, our lunch came to an end. We are very much satisfied with how the food's presentation and taste exceeded our expectations at Negiya Donburi, and that the friendly crew and welcoming staff were very pleasing. Even though the lunch menu didn't turn out like how we thought they would be, they were all surprisingly delicious and, like what the title says, "unexpected". 

The next time you visit Citywalk Sudirman, you ought to pay a visit to Negiya Donburi. Tag along some friends and family members to dine in and indulge on one of the most famous donburi in Jakarta. You won't regret a single minute you spend at this restaurant! 

Ain't no Power Puff Girls, or the Totally Spies, can beat this squad

Negiya Donburi
Citywalk Sudirman, 1st Floor
Jl. K.H. Mas Mansyur
Sudirman, Jakarta

Opening Hours:
Monday - Sunday: 10 AM - 10 PM

(+62) 21 2970 4051

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