Dona Dona (Gold Coast, QLD)

30B Nerang St
Southport QLD 4215
+61 7 5528 1868

In the 1980s, the Japanese came to Gold Coast in droves, invested a bit of money in the city, established some decent Japanese restaurants while they were there and then effked off when the economy stagnated. In the early 2000s, there was a small wave of Korean immigration to the area and with that, some of the yummiest Korean restaurants in this side of the country including Dona Dona, which I’m going to boldly say is better than even Melbourne’s best Korean restaurant. Not even kidding. To say thanks to Marty’s parents for putting up with me, I took the family out for dinner one rainy night. Not content with many of Broadbeach’s overpriced ‘gweilo’ offerings and with the lack of decent Vietnamese choices available, they suggested we go out for Korean food in Southport. On such a terrible night (it pretty much rained for 48 hours, and it was flooding in parts of Goldie), we didn’t expect a full dining room but I made a booking nevertheless.

The first time I rang the place, Marty-the-forever-immature-idiot kept blowing raspberries onto my back. And not just once, but PERSISTENTLY too. As much as I tried to retain my composure, I couldn’t stop the giggles and it got to the stage where I was laughing so hard that I had to hang up. On my second attempt, I was more composed but the language barrier between the lady and I made booking a table a little harder than normal. I could almost picture the lady, after hanging up, telling her co-workers about this crazy, deep-voiced chick who probably provided her with some amusement on a seemingly boring night. Heh. The night may have been miserable but the atmosphere at Dona Dona was anything but. Sure, it was predictably quiet but the walls radiated as much warmth as the waitresses who greeted us and ensured we were comfortably seated. After ordering our dishes and beers, we helped ourselves to some hot tea from the urn in the corner.

We were served a small selection of complimentary side dishes, including the obligatory kim chi (which was decent as far as kim chi goes – which isn’t saying really much since I’m not a fan of it), sweet potato and seaweed. I couldn’t fault any of them. We got also a bowl of miso soup each which I thought was quite strange because, hello?! we’re not in a Japanese restaurant?! But eh, whatever, it was free and tasted alright so why complain for?

We ordered some dumplings to start off with. First, a serving of steamed man doo (six for $6.50). The surprisingly robust skins held a pork filling that was tasty and married well with the sesame soy dipping sauce provided.

I normally prefer fried man doo over steamed ones so I was surprised to find that I actually liked the steamed ones better. Sure, the fried versions (also six for $6.50) were great and all but they could have done with a bit more crisp.

Our meals arrived pretty quickly after that. My dolsot beef bi bim bap ($10.90) arrived first, the contents sitting prettily and piping hot in a stone pot. There was the option of having the bi bim bap in a normal ceramic bowl for $9.90 but I believe that you can’t have a bi bim bap if it’s not served in a stone pot – the best bit is scooping all the crunchy bits of rice at the bottom of your bowl towards the end of your meal. Yum!

I have to say that this was the best bi bim bap I’ve had – and trust me, I’ve had heaps of them in Melbourne for it is my ‘go to’ dish whenever I eat at Korean restaurants. The portion size was perfect, and there was a fantastic ratio of marinated beef strips, rice and vegies. I eagerly mixed everything up – gooey fried egg and all – with the pepper sauce that came with it. I liked that the pepper sauce was not too spicy, and thus did not overpower the rest of the flavours contained in the stone pot. The whole thing was just fantastic; so full of beautiful flavours and colours. I was left feeling more satisfied than a Korean chick in a K-drama series who had just landed the hot guy.

Unfortunately, I’m not posting photos of the other dishes for I was a farkhead and took blurry pics which are too rookie-ish to post on this blog. Suffice to say that the other dishes were on par in the yummy stakes as mine. Marty’s mum had the pork equivalent of my dish, which looked pretty nice, though I didn’t have any. Marty had the beef bulgogi ($10.40), which was served sizzling hot, sticky and sweet. Surprisingly though, the winning dish turned out to be Marty’s dad’s pork bulgogi, which was served in the same manner as the beef version but, for some reason, with a dash of chilli powder. It was sweet like the beef, but not TOO sweet and it had the right amount of spiciness to appease hot-heads like Marty’s dad but not enough to make weaklings like myself cry. I’m not a huge fan of pork (unless, of course, it comes in dumpling form) but wow, this was amazing. This is a dish that I would probably order, instead of my usual beef bi bim bap, should I ever find myself here again – and rest assured that I’ll definitely be back.

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    1. Try telling HIM that!

      I am actually starting to warm up to GC – the people up there are a lot nicer! But nah, I will be staying firmly in Melbourne… at least for another few years.

  1. There aren’t many good Korean restaurants here in Melbourne – I should know, I’m Korean – but there’s this ONE PLACE THAT I REALLY LIKE. It actually tastes like home. And I’d really like you to go there and try the ‘gam ja tang’ and the fried chicken. IT IS PRETTY AUTHENTIC. It used to be a tiny little place in Glen Waverley behind a Korean grocery store, but it moved to the city. It’s called ‘Mook Ji Bar’. See if you can find it. It’d be good for you to see that at least there’s one decent Korean place in Melbourne 😛

    1. I walked past Mook Ji Bar this afternoon! It’s a few shops down from Yami Yami (haven’t been to the city restaurant but I do like the Box Hill one)

      Yes, definitely one to try very soon. Thanks for the tip!

  2. Interstingly cheaper than Melbourne’s Yami Yami and all the other places around RMIT!!! From the sounds of it, the best Asian food up in Queensland eh??? 😀

  3. I totally want to go out for Korean with you one day so that I can eat your share of the kim chi/banchan 😉 I don’t know if we even have any Korean places in Canberra. Bah humbug!

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