Sunday, October 31, 2010

Bad romance: Brisbane's Guiltiest Pleasure

When a friend of mine kept ranting on about how much she loved the German Club at Woolloongabba, I have to admit, I thought she was on crack.  Who wants to go to some European version of an RSL, eat substandard food and watch 50 year old German men sucking down beer?  It did not sound like my idea of a good night out.

After my friend finally succeeded in dragging me along to the German Club one rainy Friday night, I have to admit, it was a revelation.

After paying the $5 membership fee, we were ushered into a fairly crappy looking pub area with a few examples of the aforementioned 50 year old German men sitting around drinking beer.

Keen to start drinking beer myself, I moseyed on up to the bar to check out what was on offer, and can I tell you, I was delighted.  They had a fabulous range of German beers on tap including my most favourite of favourites: Erdinger!!!

This beer is the shit people. 

It's big, it's golden and it's wheaty.  I love these Bavarian cloudy beers that are big brash and bitter at the front but then have sweet and fruity aftertaste.  It comes in 500ml servings and basically there's a good night to be had right there.  The German Club seemed a whole lot more awesome after slamming down a few of these suckers.

And it's not just the beer that is big here.  In usual German style, the serving sizes of all of the meals here are ridiculous.  And I like it.  Case on point: the pork belly.
I mean look at this thing - it's a monster!  I thought it was going to take over the world!  With a belly full of beer it was a real struggle to down this plate of pig monster and so it was probably a good thing that I was sharing my dinner. 

The pork belly was not the best you'll ever taste, but by god, with a serving size like that of glistening, sweet, fatty pork belly you really cannot complain.  The other sweet surprise was the sour cherry sauerkraut.  It was so yummy!  I really can't go past the astringency of a really tasty briney sauerkraut, and the sour cherries just made it even better.  And this plate of deliciousness was only $21 - very impressive value for money.

My German Club indoctrinated friend had also espoused the virtues of the German Club's schnitz to me.  Again I had been skeptical - I mean who has ever had a good schnitz in a pub?  Or ever?  Too many times I've been scarred by a deep fried dried up piece of meat covered in breadcrumbs and labelled schnitzel and I've vowed "never again!".  But again I had to stand corrected.
OK so it looks like your average schnitz - and that side salad really is pitiful, but I'm telling you there is something in the crumbs!  While I've often found a pub schnitz to be tasteless, this one was bursting with salty savoury flavour - and the mushroom sauce was really delicious.  .

During our dinner we had been treated to some interesting sounds coming from the beer hall that adjoins the bar area.  These sounds were coming from a 50 year old German man in lederhosen playing covers up on stage at the front of the beer hall, lined with long tables and littered with drunk (non-German) people.

This man, known only as "Andrew" banged out some rock solid covers of everything from Lady Gaga to ACDC.  While I was dubious at first, the more Erdinger I consumed the more I liked it!  Andrew really had me when he cranked up Gaga's "Bad Romance" which had grown men toting wheat beer and yelling "Gaga ooh lala".

After a slow start, I had a rip roaring night out at the German Club and I will definitely be back to sample the mutant pork knuckle and drunkenly lurch to the musical stylings of lederhosen clad Andrew.
Zum Kaiser, Brisbane German Club on Urbanspoon

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Dinner with Danger Will Robinson!

This is a little embarrassing and I don't always admit this in public, but I am a huge Nerdy McNerd fan of science fiction. I have been known to hibernate on a weekend with my husband watching season whatever of Battlestar Galactica, Stargate (all of its incarnations) and yes, even Star Trek.

Maybe this is why I was intrigued by Obaltan (right outside Elizabeth Street Arcade in the City with its retractable silver space age extractor fans hanging down from the ceiling above each table, ready to suck up the charcoal smoke from the grills.  They reminded me of the arms of the Robot from Lost In Space (you know when he waved them around klaxoning "Danger Will Robinson").

Obaltan has a pretty extensive menu filled with all those strange and wonderful Korean food names in short gutteral bursts like "Bibimbup" and "Yuk Gae Jang".  We knew that we had to order some BBQ though, so we went with the Combination A ($65) which featured cha dol, beef skirt, beef ribs and pork belly and steered clear of the other choice which had too much animal intestine to really tickle my fancy.

 While I do enjoy the theatre and fun of grilling all the meats on the smoky charcoal grill, I must say it does get a little stressful.  Making sure everyone gets some of the deliciously charred meat, that it's all dished out evenly, that you don't cook too long, that you don't cook too short and give everyone food poisoning... ughh!!

For some variety (and vegetable content) we went with the Dolsot Bibimbap which came out sizzling and spitting in its red hot stone pot (dolsot).

I love the way the rice at the bottom of the dolsot gets all crunchy and infused with the sesame oil at the bottom in this dish.  I also love the way it comes out with a raw egg cracked in the middle that you mix up with your chopstick and cook against the sides of the dolsot.  In my opinion, adding an egg to pretty much anything cranks up the awesome, which is another reason why I love Korean fare.

The obligatory condiments were pretty cool here.  Of course there was the ubiquitous kim chi, but an interesting one was the ball of sweet potato mash with nuts.

Obaltan had pretty good service, and had those awesome service buttons on each table that Koreans seem to love so much.  The thing that really sold it for me though, was the fact that this was the serving size of the house wine:

Obaltan on Urbanspoon

Friday, October 8, 2010

It's alive! A living breathing Japanese feast

Who knew that Spring Hill was the home of awesome Japanese food?  I sure didn't.  Actually I didn't really think Spring Hill was the home of anything much except a few yuppies and a couple of dodgy strip joints.

I've spoken before about my fascination with Japanese food, and my trip to Bishamon has just added fuel to the fire.

We let my friend who had been on exchange to Japan during her university days do the ordering which was definitely the right thing to do.  As was sharing all the meals.

For me it is a rare experience that almost all plates ordered at a restaurant are winners - the only dud was the teriyaki salmon which consisted of sickly sweet deep fried wads of fish with an unappetising sauce.  Avoid this one.

But let's move to the highlights.  Firstly, the gyoza (which are an essential part of any order at a Japanese restaurant) were delicious and came in a little ramekin, arranged in a star shape and baked in the oven.

We also had some sashimi which featured the usual tuna and salmon, but also some raw octopus.
As much as I wanted to like it, I was left a little squeamish after eating the chewy fishy tentacle... I guess I'm not the adventurous foodie I thought I was...

The karaage chicken salad was also a revelation.
My husband has always been a huge fan of karaage chicken - ever since we tried it first many years ago at Garuvas.  To him it was like a high class version of KFC.  Apparently the key to the unique taste is marinating the chicken in soy sauce, garlic and ginger, and then dipping the morsels in seasoned flour and deep frying them in oil.  While I had tried karaage chicken on its own before, I had never seen it in a salad.  This was eally great - I'm not sure what was in the sauce/dressing, but it was a little sweet, a little sour and a bit tangy.  Delicious!

That night I also had the best teppanyaki beef I have ever tasted!

It was so tender and juicy with an amazing charcoal taste that was unlike any I'd ever tasted.  There must have been some sort of extra seasoning on it that gave it some extra zing. Whatever it was, despite the fact that I was full to the brim, I kept shovelling the slices of delicious meat into my mouth with reckless abandon.

And finally, the best thing we had was the yaki udon with fish flakes and nori.
It came out sizzling, steaming and breathing like some sort of strange animal.  This was mainly due to the fish flakes or "hanakatsuo" which are made from katsuobushi, a dried, fermented and smoked skipjack tuna.  When sprinkled onto a steaming, sizzling griddle of yaki udon, the flakes breath in and out with the steam, making it seem alive!  The taste was sensational.  Bishamon's yaki udon contained chicken and beef mixed up with the udon noodles and had that delectable char grilled taste.

I recommend this place if you're looking for tasty and authentic Japanese food with a pretty low price tag.  My only regret is not trying to tempura ice cream!
Bishamon Japanese on Urbanspoon