It’s great to find ‘hidden gems’ in the Toon. I’ve said a few times I have a long list of places I want to try and aim to work my way through them systematically. Curve balls are thrown even at times where I’ve made plans and have to think on my feet. We recently made a trip into Newcastle to try out a pub which had not long been open and where I’d been assured there were vegan options. Alas, on the day we popped in they had nothing readily available so had to find an alternative lunch venue. DOJO popped in to my mind as an substitute and we ventured through to Chinatown to give it a try.
Upon entering I felt like I’d walked into the mind of the Teen. It was a shame he wasn’t with me on this particular visit as I think it would have appealed to his inner geek. A classic Streetfighter arcade machine greets you as you walk through the door, while posters featuring Japanese stars advertising holiday destinations and anime characters line the wall. It’s all very kitsch and quirky.
The haphazard approach isn’t just limited to their interior design either. We were presented with an array of menus which felt like we were bombarded with choice. Without a specific section for vegetarian or vegan we were wary about what we could/should order so decided to request some help from the staff. We discussed our dietary requirements and the waitress went for clarification from the kitchen. She returned with a list of dishes we could try out, which led to us ordering a lot of what was offered. Not knowing how big the portions were also impacted on this, although we were both quite hungry too!
Rather than ordering Asashi my friend fancied warmed House Sake, which came in large flask (£7.80 for 200ml). I felt he was going to end up rolling out of DOJO as I was the designated driver and couldn’t help him finish it off!
Then the plates of food started to arrive and it seemed like we needed a bigger table. His Seaweed Soup (£2.80) was first to appear, swiftly followed by Agedashi Tofu (£3.80). This dish comprised of silken tofu dusted in cornstarch, which was deep fried until crisp.Next on the table were the Vegetable Rolls (£3.00) and Avocado Sushi (£2). Both were served with pickled ginger and a soy dipping sauce.
If that wasn’t enough, I’d ordered a Vegetarian Deep Fried Tofu Bento Box (£7.80). This had been adapted slightly to make it vegan friendly and came with curry sauce and a bowl of Miso Soup. This would make an excellent lunch for those not sure of what to order at DOJO and wanting to try a range of dishes as opposed to a larger main.I personally wasn’t keen on the Edamame Beans, which I felt were less than fresh, but everything else was delicious. I particularly liked the Inari, which are sweet parcels of beancurd and sticky rice.
My friend ordered Aubergine in Garlic (£4.20) for his main, which he paired with a side of Green Tea Rice (£5.80).
He proffered some to me, declaring he was going to struggle to finish it off on his own. With sushi rolls and my Bento to work my way through I definitely felt we’d been over-zealous in our ordering.
That said, the delicate flavour and slow cooking of the vegetable meant it was moreish and I happily aided in the clearly of the plate. I wasn’t really keen on the rice, or Ochazuke, because of the heavy use of seaweed in its presentation.
Judging by the empty plates left on our table afterwards dining at DOJO was a roaring success, although I’ll never fathom how two people managed to eat so much in one sitting! I was slightly fearful of the bill arriving having ordered off-menu, but the meal came to just below £40 including drinks. I was staggered at how reasonably priced everything was and felt that those who dine at the likes of Yo Sushi would be better served hunting out a local restaurant like DOJO for a more authentic Japanese experience. We will definitely return, although we’ll likely be more restrained in our ordering next time.
Thanks for reading,