9 best donburi bowls in Singapore

Uni chirashi don by Uni Gallery by OosterBay.
Uni chirashi don by Uni Gallery by OosterBay. PHOTO: UNI GALLERY

(HER WORLD) - If your appetite is raging and you know that sushi is not going to cut it, you will want a donburi (Japanese rice bowl). 

And donburis are not limited to just teriyaki chicken or pork cutlets topped with an oozing onsen egg. There are a lot of other varieties that include ingredients such as eel, tempura and sashimi.

We rounded up some of the best places to eat these donburis - some are value-for-money, some are worth the splurge, and some already have a reputation for being the best in town. 

1. Chirashi don (raw seafood) - Jin Fine Dining

There are many places in town to get a good bowl of chirashi, which is rice with sushi ingredients scattered on top. 

We pick Jin Fine Dining in Amoy Hotel for its healthy variety of chirashi dons. You can choose from about 10 types of bowls. For example, the Shake Oyako Chirashi ($30) is full of salmon slices, melt-in-the-mouth salmon belly and salmon roe, while the Aburi Chirashi ($30) is filled with lightly grilled fish cubes, creamy avocado and chunks of fresh cucumber.

But if you want to splurge, get the Premium Chirashi ($48) for a bowl of fresh tuna and salmon belly, snapper, amberjack, salmon roe, and botan shrimp.

Where: Jin Fine Dining, Amoy Hotel, 76 Telok Ayer Street

2. Bara Chirashi Don (marinated raw seafood) - Sushiro

Chirashi is typically made with raw sushi ingredients. Bara chirashi, on the other hand, is lightly marinated with sauces such as vinegar and mirin to give the fish a touch of flavour.

We like the bara chirashi don at Sushiro, which is affordable at $12.80. Granted, it is located far away from the bustle of town at Thomson Plaza. And the long queues do not make it easier. But still, give it a go if you are in the area.

We really enjoy the tender chunks of tuna, salmon, prawn and octopus, all made addictive thanks to the secret house sauce they are marinated in.

If you are dining with two to three people, pay $28.80 to upgrade your bara chirashi don. You will get a bowl topped with a huge mound seafood that almost threatens to collapse from its weight. 

Where: Sushiro, Thomson Plaza, 301 Upper Thomson Road

3. Unadon (sea urchin) - Uni Gallery by Oosterbay

Located in a nook in the basement on The Plaza in Beach Road, Uni Gallery is an unassuming little eatery that ships in fresh uni from Japan and Canada every other day.

There are a couple of different varieties, with their own flavour profiles. We thoroughly enjoy the buttery-textured bafun sea urchin we have had a chance to try. It goes well with vinegared rice and the bursts of fish roe lend savouriness to the meal. One bowl of unadon with seasonal uni costs $49 for lunch and $59 for dinner.

Where: Uni Gallery by Oosterbay, 7500A Beach Road

4. Magurodon (tuna) - Kuro Maguro by Maguro Donya

You have not really tried tuna until you try the fattiest part of the fish - the otoro, which is the tuna belly. This cut is pale pink, unlike the redder, leaner cuts of tuna you will often find in poke bowls.

The difference does not stop at colour. Otoro is delicate, mildly sweet and has a melt-in-the-mouth texture. So, for some seriously good tuna donburi, go to Kuro Maguro at Tanjong Pagar Centre. It is not as traditional-looking as its sister outlet in Suntec City, but there are more donburi options here. 

One donburi to try is the Special Maguro Don Set ($44.90), which comes with thick and soft slabs of the best cuts of tuna. 

Head there on Tuesdays and Fridays, when fresh shipments of tuna are flown in straight from Miura, Japan.

Where: Kuro Maguro, Tanjong Pagar Centre, 7 Wallich Street

5. Unagi Don - Unagiya Ichinoji

You might already know of eel-speciality restaurants such as Man Man and Uya, but have you tried the latest one that has reached Singapore only this April? 

Renowned Japanese eel restaurant Miyagawa Honten, which has a 125-year heritage, has just launched its very first overseas branch here in Singapore, called Unagiya Ichinoji.

Like similar Japanese restaurants with long histories, you will find that it has a secret recipe that has been passed down for generations. Here, it is the tare sauce (sweet basting sauce) that is used to coat the eel. The sauce is sweet, but not saccharine. Still, if you do not like your food sweet, you can dust some aromatic spice mix on your food as a quick remedy.

The tare sauce also caramelises on the eel, leaving a sticky and slightly crispy layer above the flaky eel flesh.

Where: Unagiya Ichinoji, 30 Robertson Quay

6. Tendon (tempura) - Tendon Ginza Itsuki

This one is another popular spot in town. You have probably seen long queues creeping along a Japanese restaurant along Tanjong Pagar Road. That is Tendon Ginza Itsuki, an eatery that specialises in only two types of tempura donburis, the original and the vegetarian one.

The prices are very affordable too: $13.90 for the original bowl, which has chicken, prawn and vegetables; and $12.90 for the vegetarian version that includes pumpkin, lotus root, shiitake and more. Each dish comes with free-flow pickles, chawanmushi and miso soup.

The batter here is laid on thickly, which some people love. But if you prefer your tempura to be light and crispy instead of thick and crunchy, maybe try Akimitsu instead, another renowned tempura restaurant from Japan.

Where: Tendon Ginza Itsuki, 101 Tanjong Pagar Road

7. Gyudon (beef) - Waa Cow

Waa Cow's specialty dishes. Waa Cow

Beef is not the typical topping on a donburi most people go for, when chirashi is a much more popular option. But give it a try and you might be pleasantly surprised. 

The beef pieces in this gyudon at Waa Cow are well marinated, tender and come in thick, hearty strips. The onsen egg, when mixed, makes the vinegared rice and beef taste even yummier, while the sprinkling of green onions adds a little freshness. 

It is a simple and convenient meal to have if you are working in the CBD as there is an outlet in Raffles Xchange.

Where: Waa Cow, NUS UTown, 2 College Avenue West and Raffles Xchange, 5 Raffles Place

8. Foie Gras Truffle Yakiniku Don (grilled meat) - Tanuki Raw

Truffle yakiniku don at Tanuki Raw. Tanuki Raw

If you like your Japanese food a little less traditional and prefer upmarket ingredients that give a unique twist, go for the Foie Gras Truffle Yakiniku Don ($19.80) at Tanuki Raw during the lunch special.

You get buttery pan-seared foie gras, US black angus short rib doused in truffle soya sauce, a runny onsen egg, black garlic brown butter over the rice and large wedges of pickles for a bit of acidity. It is worth the price and, if you do not mind splurging a little more, pay $26.20 in total for fresh truffle.

Where: Tanuki Raw, Orchard Central, 181 Orchard Road and National Design Centre, 111 Middle Road

9. Katsudon (cutlet) - Katsudon Hanakatsu

Hana Katsudon which comes with both pork and chicken from Katsudon Hanakatsu. Katsudon Hanakatsu

Katsu refers to when something is breaded in panko and deep-fried. Katsudon Hanakatsu, a small Japanese eatery in Suntec City, specialises in just this and uses pork as the main ingredient.

Like Tendon Ginza Itsuki, this place offers only two items on its menu - the spicy katsudon and the original one. Both cost $13.50++.

Each bowl comes with five tender pork slabs that are crispy on the outside, hot and juicy on the inside. Sinful and yummy.

Where: Katsudon Hanakatsu, 3 Temasek Boulevard.