Japanese Adventure at Uncle Don in Paddington

Japanese food is something my family agrees on unanimously. We’re a pretty fussy family, as my partner’s gluten and dairy free and it’s typically hard to get my son to eat anything other than potatoes. We therefore jumped at the chance for a night out at Japanese. Furthermore, I’d heard good things about the food at Uncle Don in Paddington and I was certainly keen to try somewhere new for this blog.

Uncle Don in Paddington
Uncle Don and its TV on the right

Locate in the former suburb of Rosalie (now a part of Paddington), Uncle Don sits on a terrace in a cosy, small space that accommodates up to about 50 people. We’d booked an outside table, as Uncle Don kindly said my son could eat some chips from Grilled at the restaurant, but only if we sat outside. This is due to the fact he typically only eats avocado nori rolls and we knew that Uncle Don was a speciality Japanese donburi place that served no such thing.  

The Atmosphere

I must admit, I was a tad apprehensive about sitting outside in the middle of winter on a Sunday night, even in Brisbane. However, when we arrived, my fears were soon pulverised, as it’s like an indoor/outdoor place in that it’s undercover and they have a heater. Score! Uncle Don in Paddington accommodates, even though it has simple, spartan-like décor (which adds to its charm).

The simple interior of Uncle Don in Paddington

There was a TV showing outside the restaurant, but thankfully it was Japanese food and cooking-related and not an unpleasant distraction. I’d sat down to a welcome environment, and to get off to an even better start, my son was feeling adventurous and decided to try the potato curry from Uncle Don instead of eating chips from Grilled. Shortly after, I ordered a Nobunaga Junmai – chilled, pure rice sake – and I was suddenly having a grand time.

Our ‘terrace’ spot and me enjoying the Nobunaga Junmai

The Food at Uncle Don in Paddington

I was pleased when my son’s food came out and it looked and smelled good. Upon tasting it, he was pleasantly surprised too, and subsequently so were we. Olin’s curry came with katsu sauce, potatoes, rice and shallots. Thankfully the chefs left off the wasabi mayo and fukujinzuke (pickled Japanese vege garnish) – at our request – as my son wouldn’t go there.  

Olin’s potato curry

Nikki and I also decided to get a light entree and we ordered the charred edamame beans, which were seasoned with nori salt. What lifted these was the way they were cooked, as the ‘charred’ part, coupled with the nori seasoning, made them uber delicious. Check out my video at the end for some edamame action.

Our charred edamame beans with nor salt. Yum!

Next came my meal, which I thought looked a little average. As an ex-chef, I was always taught that customers ‘eat with their eyes’ and this was making my eyes indifferent. However, thankfully it tasted superb – light, with subtle flavours of kimchi, roasted seaweed flakes, shallots and a soft, oven-baked salmon. My dish was the tenkasu baked salmon don and my hopes were fulfilled. Apparently you can enjoy eating with just your mouth!

Nikki’s char-grilled chicken don

My partner’s dish, which came out last, was the best-looking of the lot. I think it’s the egg that lifts the presentation of the dish, although the chicken looked mouthwatering too. Nikki ordered the char-grilled chicken don, gluten-free. It came with teriyaki butter, steamed rice, roasted seaweed flakes and shallots – which appeared to be standard garnishes at Uncle Don in Paddington. I was impressed with my meal, Olin enjoyed his, but I think Nikki was the happiest of all.

Our Thoughts

We regularly eat at Tsuri near our home in Ashgrove, where Nikki orders the teriyaki chicken. However, she called Uncle Don’s version ‘next level’ compared with Tsuru’s and has stated in the couple of days since, she’s been thinking about the food and can’t wait to return! It’s safe to say Uncle Don in Paddington will probably become a regular of ours.

The only other Japanese food I’ve had in Brisbane that’s comparably good, is Izakaya Kotobuki in the city (before they moved to their current location in George Street). I’ve also heard their sister restaurant Sushi Kotobuki in East Brisbane is even better. I’m certainly keen to feature that on this site soon, but I can thoroughly recommend Uncle Don in Paddington before I do. I also don’t think Uncle Don is ‘overpriced’, as some of the reviews I’ve read say.

The Service

There’s not a lot to say about this part of the night, as thankfully there was nothing to complain about. Our needs were fairly simple too and Uncle Don in Paddington rose to our occasion splendidly. We were served by a young lady who was very attentive. We’re one of those families who take a while to get our act together. Sometimes, when this happens, the waitress or waiter walks off and doesn’t return for a while. However, that wasn’t the case here, as she kept an eye on us without being too overbearing.

Furthermore, my son’s curry came out first, which is always a thoughtful move in my opinion. Making sure the kids are fed promptly makes for a happier, smoother family night.

The Drinks and Miso Soup

My chilled Nobunaga Junmai sake was smooth, fragrant and took the slight edge off my night at the start. I’m keen to return and try some of the other sakes here soon. My partner ordered a pot of ginger and honey tea and we had a bit of a hot and cold party, swapping drinks occasionally for a taste.

My Nobunaga Junmai and Nikki’s tea

The miso soup comes complimentary with a meal and was flavoursome, hearty and contained decent pieces of seaweed. I regularly drink miso soup and this is one of the tastier ones I’ve had. Saying that, it wasn’t very hot, which would be about the only criticism I have of our night’s experience at Uncle Don in Paddington.

Our miso soup – a bit lost here amidst our adventure at Uncle Don in Paddington

In all, it was a most pleasant evening and we’ll certainly be back. Uncle Don is worth the hype and again, I don’t think it’s too expensive for what it is either.

Check out my video at the top to get a better idea of our experience.

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