Donto Izakaya in Kagoshima good food, fun time

Donto Izakaya in Kagoshima good food, fun time

by Peter Sidell

Whichever city you visit in Japan, a good place to look for eating and drinking options is around the station, and Kagoshima is no exception. There are scores of restaurants, cafes and bars within a few minutes of Kagoshima Chuo station, as I found when I was looking for somewhere to have dinner one night. I eventually settled on Donto, which lured me in with its striking entrance, and was glad I did, as I had a good feed without spending much.

It was a Friday night that I was there, so it was full of office workers starting their weekend, which made for a lively atmosphere, what with their cheery chatter, the upbeat music, and the chefs' calls from the open kitchen behind the counter. It's a shoes-off place, with customers sitting at low tables on the raised tatami floor, or at the short counter. The decor is just a big jumble of posters, lanterns, thundersticks and dozens of bottles, many of which are probably 'keep bottles' belonging to regular customers.

I ordered myself some tako-kimchi (octopus with spicy pickled cabbage) and some fish dumplings, only to be told they weren't available; I guess the menu depends on what they've found at the markets on the day, which at least assured me that everything was fresh. I went instead for some diced chicken steak, chosen by observing what my neighbors were eating, which arrived still sizzling on a hot metal plate, and was deliciously tender and went well with the onion fried so soft it was almost caramelized. On the side I had a block of smooth, firm tofu, and I washed it all down with a crisply refreshing apple chu-hai.

The menu has no English, but plenty of pictures to help you make your choice, so you can just summon the staff and point if you need to. I saw a lot of fried fish and meat dishes, and some sets of yakitori, bite-sized pieces of meat barbequed on wooden skewers. I could decipher some of the drink menu: beer is Y550, soft drinks Y250, chu-hai Y450 (including lime and lemon flavors as well as my apple), Cutty Sark whisky Y550, and there are also some strong, sweet Chinese liqueurs, in peach, plum and grape varieties.

It's not the fanciest place to eat, but if you want to see a typical cheap'n'cheerful Japanese izakaya bar-restaurant, then Donto is a good choice.

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