#205-4501 North Road
Donkkaseu, is the Korean spelling converted into English taken from the sounds of the original Japanese word for this dish, a breaded and deep fried pork cutlet. For many North Americans, the Japanese presentation of this served Kanto-style with a sweet tonkatsu sauce and finely sliced raw cabbage is perhaps most familiar. (On a side note, I reckon it might be awhile before we see here in Canada, tonkatsu done the Kansai (more specifically Nagoya) way by bringing in the flavors of the more savory miso as a sauce base – but stranger things have happened). Though, as with several notable kinds of food in Asian cuisine, you can find different variations of a single dish made with local interpretations – across East Asia in particular); for instance la mian/ramen or kimbap/norimaki). Hybrids even and commonly referred to as such as a standalone genre (e.g. Korean-Chinese cuisine comes to mind here) too. This is just another example.
The Koreanized edition of this dish has its roots in the gradual arrival of Westernized cuisine on the peninsula, with a spreading of simple mom-and-pop establishments, almost kitchen cafe-like in nature, where this donkkaseu really came to the forefront. From a Seoul perspective, this transition seemed to really happen around the late-eighties,/early-nineties, so people of that generation who might of been high school/university students at the time, probably have fond memories of seeing this cause a foodie stir. Just simple, home-style cooking. Nothing flashy about the presentation either. The ample application of the sesame-base sauce on top of a very generously portioned lean pork cutlet (at Don’sta, this was easily the length of two of my palms stretched together) exemplifies the rustic nature.
Don’sta really brings home the nostalgia. And to my knowledge, is the only place in greater Vancouver that has this on their menu. Good crispy exterior but still keeping the meat inside tender. Even the sauce didn’t result in too soggy a crust despite it being applied in the kitchen and not at the table when brought out.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t also add some commentary on the growth of pasta and pizza places in South Korea following this initial boom in westernized cuisine during that time period. Now, Korea is flooded with both local and foreign chains (especially on the pizza front) and seemingly outnumbers fast food hamburger joints in terms of absolute quantity. I believe at one point in the past decade, Korea ended up being a major importer of ingredients like frozen dough, as a result of this. So it was kind of fitting that this operation has decided to incorporate these key elements of the western food trend in Korea of years past into their very basic menu. Even their name sake refers to as such (DON from Donkatsu/Donkkase, and I assume the STA from Pasta).
Lastly, Don’sta seems to still be getting its feet wet with their real signage just going up this week. A pre-grand opening sale that ended today which featured two of their main dishes being offered at 50% off might have been a big draw and a reasonable explanation for why the place was really busy with both dine-in and takeaway customers on my visit. For the memories and a take on something really unseen here, I’d venture a trip back. Reasonable prices, lack of pretentiousness and simple honest food. All a win for me.