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Review: Shopping At Malaysia’s First Don Don Donki Store @ Lot 10, Kuala Lumpur

Earlier in March, Japanese discount chain store Don Don Donki opened its first outlet in Malaysia at Lot 10 in Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur. Needless to say, the crowds were massive, with people queueing for hours just to get into the shop.

It’s been a month and the hype has died down a little – so I thought it would be a good time to check out what they have in store.

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I went on a weekday afternoon, and thankfully there was no queue. The entrance is on the second floor, so you’ll have to go up a couple of escalators. I suggest parking at Fahrenheit 88 nearby and walking over. It’s also advisable to go to the toilet beforehand, as there is no toilet inside the store and the toilets at Lot 10 have a 50-cent charge.

For the uninitiated, Don Don Donki (or Don Quijote as it is known in Japan) is a popular Japanese discount chain store with over 160 shops nationwide, and a strong presence in Asian Pacific markets such as Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and now Malaysia. They are known for being open till late (some shops are open 24 hours), and for having a distinctive retail concept which features aisles packed from floor to ceiling with goods.

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I have been to a Donki store in Tokyo, and it can be overwhelming for a first-timer – what with the explosion of colours, loud posters and merchandise everywhere. The Malaysian outlet has a similar design, with narrow aisles filled with all sorts of products imaginable, from toys and clothing, to cosmetics and snacks, most of which are imported from Japan. Unlike hypermarkets where there are clear signages indicating the sections, Don Don Donki’s layout is a jumble: everything here seems to vie for your attention.

If you’re lazy to scroll, here’s a video! And while you’re at it, don’t forget to subscribe. 🙂

Entering the store, you will come to the household goods and kitchenware section, and an area selling gym equipment and Donki merchandise such as plushies, toys and bags. The kitchen is located on this floor as well, and you can watch the staff preparing the food through glass windows.

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Don Don Donki’s mascot is a blue penguin called Donpen.
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Be prepared to have the Don Don Donki theme song stuck in your head after your visit. They play it on an infinite loop through the loudspeakers.
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The aisles here are very narrow, so even when there aren’t too many people, the place can feel cramped and claustrophobic. I don’t think SOPs were followed strictly (or should I say, it can’t be enforced due to the tight space?). At the snack aisles, for example, there was only room for 2 people to walk through, and I had to back-peddle out of the aisles several times whenever I saw people coming from the other end – there was simply no room for me to squeeze through.

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Some of the more unique items on sale. Be prepared to shell out a premium.
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Cosmetics section with vanity mirrors.

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The second floor wasn’t really my thing – I was more interested in the first floor, which is where they sell fresh produce and food items. When going down the staircase, the Don Don Donki staff will ask if they can help with your basket or trolley, which is a nice gesture.

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There is a wide selection of produce to choose from, including meat and vegetables, and of course, seafood. Following the design theme, every inch of this floor is packed with products – even the ceilings are filled with decorations. They also have these giant monitors playing interviews with farm owners / fishermen, which may tell you more about how the seafood was caught, or how crops were cultivated before they ended up in store.

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The store carries many common ingredients seen in Japanese cuisine, but may be more difficult to find in local hypermarkets.

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Assorted beef cuts. They also carry wagyu platters.
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The ready-to-eat section is an island counter laden with items such as chicken karaage, kaki furai (fried oyster), tori nanban, donburi bowls, fried squid, and more. The food is kept under heated lamps to keep them warm, but you can also reheat them upon checkout. Some of the food contains alcohol (such as the unagi don), so remember to check the labels if you’re unable to consume alcohol.

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 They import the seafood here from Toyosu Fish Market in Tokyo. Inset is Yasuhiro Yamazaki-san, the company president of Yamaharu Co., Ltd, whom I interviewed for an assignment a couple of years ago.
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The sushi and sashimi section. They have otoro (tuna belly) here, which is quite rare to see outside of premium Japanese restaurants.
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Uni (sea urchin)
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Humongous oysters, scallops and octopi
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Moving on to the ground floor, there are more food items including a section for fruits and dried goods.

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The aisles before checkout are also packed with easy-to-grab goods, to get customers to get a couple more items before payment. There are a lot of checkout counters, so payment is fast. They also bag up your items for you. If you’ve purchased food, you can proceed back up to the first floor, where there is a dining area outside the shop.

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Fried squid. Forgot to reheat it so I just had it cold. It wasn’t crispy anymore but the flavour was pretty good.
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Coming here is an exercise in self control. There are so many interesting things to buy, but if you’re not careful, it can blow a big hole in your wallet. I wanted to keep my budget below RM50, so I only got the above: the most expensive item was the tonkotsu instant noodles (RM12+), followed by the baked cheese cake snacks (RM9.90), the caramel corn snacks (RM8.50) and two cream puffs (RM5.90 each).

So how was my experience at Don Don Donki Malaysia?

While the selection of products is not as extensive as their outlets in Japan, I think there is still plenty to see and buy here, especially food items. Prices are premium, but that is to be expected, given that most of the goods are brought in from Japan, and you do get some unique things that you won’t be able to find in local grocery stores or hypermarkets. The displays are very colourful and attractive, but it can get tiring after awhile due to the visual and sensory overload.

That being said, there are a few things that the shop can improve on. The aisles are narrow, so getting people to follow SOPS is a challenge. It’s also not comfortable to take your time and shop, as it can get crowded and stuffy. I would suggest coming on a weekday, if possible. If not, then maybe come earlier on the weekend. Store opening hours are from 8AM – 12PM.

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Kanazawa Attractions: Fresh Seafood at Omi-Cho Market

Markets are one of the best places to experience the local way of life, and Omicho in Kanazawa is no exception. The bustling, colourful hub is the largest in the city and its oldest, dating back to the Edo era. Its modern form may be a far cry from how it originally looked like – but as you stroll through its neat layout, it’s not difficult to imagine traders in traditional costumes hawking their produce and wares to prospective buyers. Today, there are about 200 stalls selling everything from fruits to vegetables, kitchenware, clothing and more. Of course, being by the sea, Kanazawa is renowned for its fresh seafood, found at every corner of the market.

 

One of the entrances to Omicho.

Like everywhere else in Japan, the market is exceedingly clean. Spacious walkways are flanked by stalls, with goods laid out in an inviting display. The place is busiest in the mornings, but there was a fair number of visitors as well during our visit in the afternoon.

Every colour looked exceedingly vivid. Displays are made to look as attractive as possible – no rotting or less-than-satisfactory fruits/veges would have made the cut. This is quite a contrast with some wet markets in Southeast Asia (or maybe just in Malaysia lol)  where you’d find a bunch of wilted greens piled unceremoniously in a dirty-looking wicker basket in a corner.

The seafood selection is nothing short of impressive. Fancy some hairy crabs for 13000 yen (RM480)?

Why wait til you’re home to savour the seafood? Have it on the spot, like this group of youths who picked out their favourites and chowed down with some soy sauce and condiments. Can’t get fresher than that!

A worker shucking some giant oysters.

 Assorted shellfish and squid.

There are several restaurants within the vicinity. To attract customers, they sometimes put their ‘catch of the day’ on display, like this one which had a giant tuna head on ice.

One of these days I’d love to witness the auction process at the Tokyo market.

  Had a nice unagi on skewer fresh off the grill!

GETTING THERE

Take a bus from stops 6,7,8 or 9 at Kanazawa Station East Gate Bus Terminal and alight at Musashigatsuji. Alternatively, the Kanazawa Loop Bus (Left Loop) also takes you there, alighting at stop 7. Tickets are 200 yen for single fare.

Opening hours: 8AM – 6PM (shop hours may vary)

Closed (varies from shop to shop), but usually Wednesdays and Sundays, as well as public holidays.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fresh Goods and Hearty Homemade Meals @ Mansfield Produce Store, Mansfield Victoria, Australia

Hey guys! So this is my last entry for the Victoria, Australia blog series. Sorry it took so long in between posts; I kind of forgot this was still lying in drafts. ._.

My last stop on the Victoria Food and Wine Trail across parts of southeastern Australia was to a quaint little tourist town called Mansfield, about 180km from Melbourne. Like many settlements across Aus, it was founded in the 1800s and was named after an English town of the same name. Formerly dependent on farming and logging, it now acts as the support town for the popular ski resort, Mount Buller.

One of the town’s main ‘attractions’ is the Mansfield Regional Produce Store – or simply the Produce Store as it is known to locals. Built in 1895, the place retains a charming, vintage vine with high rafters and wooden beams. Decor is given a modern touch with paintings by local artists adorning its walls. The owner, Dean, is very supportive of the local arts and culture scene. Aside from the paintings, which are for sale, there are various knickknacks, local handicrafts and items such as handmade soap at the back of the store, and the outlet also hosts events like open mic /jam sessions on weekends.

Visitors will be greeted by a warm and cosy scene (a little cluttered, but charming all the same) once they enter the shop. One side is lined with shelves of local produce and goods, from sauces and nuts to candy and snacks. Staff bustle about behind the counter, where the day’s specials are written on blackboard menus. Chairs and tables don’t match; there are some old looking cupboards and a mishmash of deco that includes lanterns and a bicycle hanging from the ceiling. The vibe is more eclectic-home-space than an actual store.

Paintings for sale, done by local artists.

Was very tempted to get this lol.

More shelves of neatly packed goods  – perfect as gifts or souvenirs.

Further back is where they stock a variety of wines from the King Valley region, including some brands that we tried on the Food and Wine Trail, namely Pizzini Wines and the Ladies who Shoot Their Lunch series.

Foodstuff isn’t the only thing they have in store: there are also quirky little items like bags, shawls, accessories, handmade soaps and the like.

The less explored back of the store, filled with vintage treasures. Fancy a feathered lamp?

Bought some soap and scented candles to take home as souvenirs.

It was high time for brunch, so I ordered a dish of sausages with a slice of baguette and perfectly poached eggs, served with a tomato relish. The sausages were really juicy and flavourful, while the eggs were perfectly done and the relish gave the dish a tangy, appetisingly sweet/sour kick. Everything was fresh and tasty – no frozen food stuff here.

Food: 8/10

Ambience: 8/10

Service: 8/10 (be prepared to wait on busy days like weekends)

MANSFIELD PRODUCE STORE 

68 High St, Mansfield VIC 3722, Australia

Business hours: 8.30AM – 5 PM