Check out the ultimate donkas in Korea

by Ken Bringer
Stripes Korea

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Did you ever notice how some popular local favorite dishes are not really all that local? Originating somewhere else, they somehow gained popularity away from home, and over time, became absorbed into the local fare.

Indeed, “donkas,” the ubiquitous deep-fried pork cutlet enjoys that distinction here in Korea. Considered to be more of a Japanese dish, donkas has been a staple of Korean dining for decades, and is thought of as virtually Korean cuisine, much in the same way that yaki-mandu dumplings are. But after all, with few exceptions, is there anyone who doesn’t love the taste and flavor of fried, breaded pork steak covered with that special brown cutlet sauce and served with steamed rice, shredded cabbage salad with dressing, sliced ginger, Mu radish slices, and radish kimchi, along with a nice hot cup of traditional miso soup? Well I’d bet that few who’ve tried it could say they didn’t just love it.

While “Donkas” is readily available in virtually every neighborhood, just like most popular dishes…there is considerable variation between how it’s prepared, ranging from a disappointing meal, to an indescribably delicious one, and for many the search goes on to find that perfect donkas dish.

Well then here’s some good news - the search for perfect donkas is over, and the answer lies not far away from USAG-Yongsan in Seoul. Nestled down in a small valley in Jangchung-dong just a bit northeast of Itaewon, surrounded by the towering Shilla hotel, Donguk university and the Ambassador Sofitel hotel, lies a venerable spot named Don Don Donkas, that’s been serving their specialty in the area for more than 10 years, remaining a perennial favorite for the local inhabitants of nearby businesses, university students and hotel guests hardy enough to venture out of their hotel lobbies looking for an economical and delicious dining adventure.

To get there is easy, and in my opinion, the easiest way to go is by taxi – just a short inexpensive ride from Yongsan or Itaewon, or Hannam-dong or anywhere in the nearby surrounding area. But for the adventurous, Don Don Donkas can be easily gotten to by subway, and no doubt several bus alternatives could be found with a little research. At first glance, Don Don Donkas appears quite unassuming, yet presents a simple elegance that provides an excellent dining experience whether dining alone, with a friend or companion, or in a group; and depending on the time of day, patrons run the gamut of business-persons, groups of students, young couples and families, all looking to enjoy a delicious and satisfying meal without having a big price to pay.

The menu is simple and not cluttered, and currently priced, the donkas specialties include a sirloin pork steak at KRW8500, a leaner cut steak at KRW 9000, and their “Cordon Bleu” specialty called the “Golden Ball” at KRW11000. Other items include a fried, breaded fish platter made of fresh cod, a potato croquette platter at KRW9900, and a hamburger steak platter also for KRW9900. My favorite is the “Golden Ball,” and it sure is delicious, stuffed with mozzarella cheese, sliced green peppers and onion.

For refreshments, bottled beer is served at KRW4000 per bottle, and bottles of Coca Cola are KRW2000. Cold filtered water is served with every meal at no charge, and serves as a fine complement to the simple but tasty fare. Looking around, I saw that seating consisted of 5- 4 person tables, 3- 2 person tables, 4 booths for 4, 1 booth for 6, and 3 tables lined up against a long wall that can seat from 4 to 6, but can be combined together to seat as many as 10 or 12.

Lunch service begins about 11am and service continues through dinner-time, and supper meals are served up until about 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays the service is a little longer, about an hour each of those nights. The full address for Don Don Donkas is 188-11 Jangchung-dong 2-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul - and the telephone number is (02) 2264-9454 but it’s not likely that many there are fluent in English, so if you call, and your Korean isn’t up to snuff, perhaps it might be best to have a friend or associate call, assuming that their Korean language skills are strong.

If going by subway, take the #3 line to the Dongkuk university station stop - #332, depart through exit # 2 and just about 30 yards away on the left hand side sits Don Don Donkas - a clean, pleasant spot with lots of tall windows and a light colored wooden interior. In case you noticed, I haven’t mentioned getting there by car because there really isn’t any parking available, and it’s just so close to Yongsan that it would seem silly not to take a cab or go by public transportation. The local area is active and diverse, depending on when you visit, yet you’d never know it sitting in Don Don, and looking out the window at the parade of people passing by. And with the delicious food, and ample servings, Don Don Donkas just may become one of your favorites too, just like it has become one of mine. Enjoy!

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