If I asked you to guess where I found Cardiff’s newest Japanese café, I’d probably have time to go make a cuppa- and finish it, too- before you came up with the right answer.
But here on Ely’s Cowbridge Road West, opposite and half way between the former hospital and the Fire Station, is the powder blue Don Don Yatai.
(I think it’s powder blue. What do I know, I’m just a bloke. It’s not red or black or green, anyway.)
There’s a limited menu at the moment- the full version comes in a few weeks- but it’s one that hits all the right beats. You can come and collect, but this bright little room with its white walls and wood tones is a pleasant place to spend an hour. That’s what I’ve done twice this week.
The chef-owner is from Hong Kong and busy in the kitchen: his aunt is out front. Immigration delays have meant Don Don Yatai has taken a while to open but I’m very happy it has, as I sit up in the window like some 21st century gargoyle, shelling beans and finding it all pleasantly surreal, all this just yards from Grand Avenue.
Panko shrimp (£6.20) are hot and crisp and sweet, with daintily-built chicken gyoza steamed and pan fried for a nicely crisp bottom. They’re subtly herby (£4.80) and clearly hand-made.
There are worse ways to spend your time absentmindedly squeezing the fibrous pods and popping edamame into your mouth. They’re very good too, well salted and lightly steamed for a satisfying, slightly sweet bite (£3.50).
There’s an expansive menu in embryo here. Speaking of which, have the oyakodon ‘parent and child’ chicken and egg rice and decide for yourself who came first. With the white’s edges just set and a scattering of scallions, it’s about as lovely a bowl of comfort eating as I’ve had recently in this city. You almost find yourself wishing for more rain so you have an excuse to nestle in its depths.
They promise staples like sushi and ramen as the menu expands: I’m already eyeing their chicken karaage- like chicken Farage, but it doesn’t leave a nasty taste in the mouth, or repeat on your family for generations- and gyudon beef with cheese.)
Also from the donburi section you’ll find familiar chicken, pork and prawn katsu. The set meals (£11) include a starter, miso soup and steamed rice, though I go for the main course bowl, sauce katsudon. That deep fried breaded pork escalope soused in a thick, sticky sweet sauce (£8.50) is pretty much a meal in itself.
The full menu is due at the end of October, when the kitchen is fully staffed, and when their social media will kick in.
But why wait? There’s already plenty to enjoy here, and with more to come, Don Don Yatai is worth investigating now.
Don Don Yatai, 128A Cowbridge Road West, Ely, Cardiff CF5 5BT
Current hours: 12-3 and 530-830
YOU MAY ALSO ENJOY:
This blog is a very simple thing.
I won’t try to sell you any hand lotion, exercise programmes, coffee syrups or Patagonian nose flutes. You won’t find tips on dating, ‘wellness’ or yoga mats.
I write because I love it (and food, as indicated by my increasing girth). Greed happens to be my Deadly Sin of choice, but at least it is never shy of providing me with subject matter.
A simple thing, then: all you get is me wittering on semi-coherently about places I’ve eaten at; hence a ‘restaurant blog’ rather than a ‘food blog’, although there are a few recipes scattered throughout.
From mezze to Michelin ‘fine dining’ and all points in between.