A fast-food restaurant that opened in trendy Harajuku earlier this year (with other branches in Japan), does a roaring trade in a new style of donburi: “roast beef don". Queues at lunchtime are still up to half an hour long, says one of the young, red-shirted staff members. It's not only Japanese lining up, but tourists from other parts of Asia.
Everything is geared toward quick eating. You buy a meal ticket at the vending machine outside the door. The donburi itself is assembled almost immediately in the open kitchen behind the high counter. Slices of rare roast beef are heaped high on top of warm rice and garnished with lettuce, a raw egg, yogurt sauce and a sweet onion dressing. You choose either the basic “roast beef don” made with imported beef, or a more expensive version with Japanese wagyu. There is also the “steak don”, with thicker slices of beef, and some other dishes.
It's a very simple dish – as donburi should be. The beef tastes adequately tender and fresh. The rice is cooked on the premises, and one of the staff said they work hard at getting just the right texture. Prices are reasonable – it wasn't so long ago in Japan that roast beef was an expensive delicacy. Of course, it's a matter of opinion whether it's worth waiting longer in a queue than it takes to eat a fast-food meal.
Red Rock, Harajuku branch
Address: 3-25-12 Jingumae Shibuya-ku, Tokyo