The folk behind Sydney’s beloved Devon Café sure are banking on the Japanese donburi with their new venue Dopa by Devon. And why shouldn’t they? The staple simmered bowl of rice and protein is a constant favourite for anyone who has ever been over to Japan (which should be everyone by now – flights are cheap; go do it), and its about time we got such a niche concept paying homage to the simple dish.
That’s what Dopa by Devon is, essentially: an homage. An homage to the milk bars of Australia with its pastel colours and timber walls; an homage to Japanese flavours with its shaved ice desserts and supersized matcha cookies; and an homage to the eternal love we (should) all share for the humble ‘don’. It’s a fancy dedication to a decidedly un-fancy Japanese comfort meal.
Dons, Dons, Dons
The menu is, as you’d expect, cantered around rice bowls with different toppings. And you can order them as they are, or as part of a set with pickles, salad and miso soup on the side. Then you’ve got a small section dedicated to just desserts, a list which includes said Matcha Cookie ($4.90) as well as an interesting Matcha Brick Toast ($15.90) with freeze dried fruits, fresh strawberries and matcha ice cream. Bite into the loaf and watch the matcha syrup ooze out, with a fairly restrained taste overall that goes light on the green tea and hard on the sugars.
For the dons. On my visit I got the Wagyu Beef Bolar Blade Set ($27) and the classic Pork Katsu and Scrambled Eggs ($16) options. As expected, the wagyu option was outstanding, with the beef – sourced from Mayura Station in South Australia with a MBS of 7-9 – dripping with donburi sauce, bringing a bit of salty and sweet to a rich and fatty cut of meat while the soft egg helped sweeten the rice, and the deep fried shredded seaweed added a nice texture.
Sadly, I couldn’t sing similar praises for the pork katsu don. Which is disappointing, considering that if you’re going to judge an eatery specialising don on anything, it has to be their katsu. It wasn’t so much that it was bad, in fact, it wasn’t bad at all. It just didn’t quite match the same profile as dons I’ve had over in Japan, where the donburi sauce is sweeter, the egg softer, and the pork much more tender. Here, the pork – sourced from QLD – was fairly dry and the layer of scrambled egg was rubbery and overcooked. An off-day most likely, especially since DOPA proudly display their produce menu which lists where each ingredients is from, but those craving that comforting bowl of donburi from their Japan travels may be left wanting for more.
Beyond the Don
With out-there options like a cheeseburger don, a vegetarian option using teriyaki eggplant and tofu, and specials like a toothfish don and the ridiculous $40 “ultimate” don with wagyu tongue, wagyu steak, foie gras, and fresh truffle, it’s easy to place DOPA as one of the more exciting options in the new Darling Square precinct. Not everything here is going to win, and the ones that do are on the expensive side, but I’m just glad Sydney now has a place where the love of donburi dishes is reflected, enhanced and reinterpreted by one of the most reliable café brands in the city.
Address: Shop5-6, 2 Little Hay St, Haymarket NSW 2000
The writer ate as a guest of DOPA by Devon. This is not a sponsored post and all opinions are of the writers.
Feature image: Jasper Avenue. All other photos by Chris Singh