Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.


The Fastest Cafe in the Universe.

I was seventh in the queue one minute and being served the next. I'm not sure how it happened. The staff seemed to be picking off customers like snipers. There must have been twenty of them behind the counter. One took my order, the next took my money and shoved some change at me, a third banged a black lacquer tray down on the counter, someone's hand came from behind that person and placed a bowl of wasabi and soy and a serviette on the black lacquer tray and the last person pushed me off the production line with a wave and a smile that said 'Please sit down!' I sat on a stool that was slightly too big for a midget and placed the tray on a tiny semi-circular table that jutted out of the wall and within seconds another waitperson had placed my lunch on the tray and disappeared. I'd been in the place about two minutes.

I've never had such quick service, anywhere. It's not just speedy, it's noisy. All those wait staff behind the counter don't work by sign language. They shout. That means the music coming out from a speaker in the low ceiling has to be ratcheted up to steelworks level just so you can hear it. The music was that mad kind of live jazz where the pianist, the drummer and the sax player are all doing their own thing, there's no discernible tune but it must have worked because when it finishes there's thunderous applause. Then it starts again.

The place is called Don Don and I visited it after reading this post at Tummy Rumbles. I ate the Sashi Don shown in the picture and it tastes even better than it looks, which is pretty good for something that didn't exist twenty seconds earlier.

There's a principle in business they call just-in-time delivery, which is a highly complex inventory model that delivers goods exactly when required, eliminating the need to hold stocks in valuable warehouse space. They spent millions developing just-in-time, but they might just as well have sat around watching the Don Don staff at work. Your order is being made from the minute you decide what to have. Probably before. The staff work bucket-brigade style and your finished work of art arrives, almost as you sit down, looking like it has been crafted lovingly by someone in a backroom for a couple of hours. That's the thing about the Japanese. They make everything faster and cheaper than everyone else.

So if you're having a boring morning at work in the city and feeling sleepy, drag yourself up Swanston Street and have lunch at Don Don. You'll come back wired and you won't even need to drink any nasty office coffee.


mellie said...

I'm glad that you enjoyed the experience. Welcome to the world that is Don Don :-)

Anonymous said...

from Steevil:

Over here we call a place with service like that a "diner," although the menu at Don Don is many levels above diner food.

kitchen hand said...

Mellie, I'm a creature of habit and usually go to the same places - Nam Loong, a couple of soup noodle places, etc. Now I'll add Don Don to the repertoire and eat my way through the menu.

Steevil, Swanston Street is coincidentally home to several diners that apparently haven't changed since the 1950s. I think they still have the tabletop jukeboxes.

mellie said...

Ahh...Nam Loong is another of my favourites (and a lot closer to my work too!). We've probably even shared a table there and never known it :-)

kitchen hand said...

Mellie, you'll know me by the huge bowl of fish congee in front of me.