Thursday, August 19, 2010

Japanese food - my once spurned lover

I am having a love affair with Japanese food - but it hasn't always been this way.

When I was younger I really wondered what all the fuss was about and turned a little green when I visited Sono (probably Brisbane's best Japanese restaurant) upon receiving a bento box filled with little containers of Asian weirdities including sashimi and various savoury gelatinous custards. And what was with this rank stuff called sake that tasted like burning I thought?

A Sono Set
One of those strange savoury custards
I began to understand a little when I visited my first sushi train with a co-worker not long afterwards (Hanaichi, at the top of the Wintergarden). There was something fun about an endless conveyor bringing you colour coded plates of strange and wonderful parcels of food - and the continual tea top ups were also a boon. There was also something fun about getting tiddly on warmed sake in a quaint little ceramic carafe with a tiny cup and then giggling your way back to work for the afternoon...

Since then I actively began to love Japanese food.  From your average food court sushi roll to your high end private room experience.

In terms of fast food sushi outlets, it seems that everyone in Brisbane must be as obsessed with sushi rolls for lunch as I am. For instance, the "LR Sushi" hole in the wall shop on Felix Street across the road from Waterfront Place always has a line right out the door and along the street - as does the one on the outside of Queens Plaza along Adelaide Street.

For me, what is important, is price (no more than $2.20 per roll), the freshness of the ingredients (particularly because my absolute favourite is raw salmon and avocado...), free wasabi and soy sauce (MAKING PEOPLE PAY EXTRA FOR THIS IS A CRIME!!!) and, the fact that the internal ingredients must extend beyond the rice part of the sushi roll to hang attractively out the side (what I call "the dangly bit").

And I must make a bit of a confession here.... I prefer the fluroescent green fake horseradish wasabi that you get in little packets at the fast food outlets, to the real thing you get in more fancy establishments!!!  I love to get my little plastic fish filled with soy sauce, gradually squirt it on my roll, then grab a chopstick and wipe a little of the green burny wasabi on the salmon and take a bite, then repeat until the roll is gone.  Every time, I put a little more and more wasabi on the fish to see if I can stand it.... if I start coughing and crying I know I've gone too far....

Let me be clear though, anyone who puts mayo on their sushi is a wimp.

I think the worst sushi vendor I have seen is the one at Carindale Shopping Centre - downstairs, near Jamaica Blue.  The sushi is expensive, you have to pay extra for condiments, there are no dangly bits and probably worst of all, it is made by a fat white guy.  If you're there, go upstairs to Sushi Sushi which is far superior.

There is also a pretty good Japanese place called Sakura on Bennetts Road at Coorparoo which is quite well known.  I went there a few months ago and happily was able to order some pretty high quality sashimi as well as a cool steam boat which was essentially a gas burner with a pot of boiling water on top in which you tossed your own paper thin sliced wagyu and vegetables and cooked yourself up a little a stew.

Another favourite Japanese haunt of mine is Kabuki which is part of the Stamford Plaza - with its entrance on Felix Street.  They have the usual bento boxes and sashimi (as well as a sushi bar that has opened next door which is not quite as good as LR Sushi) but also a teppanyaki bar where the chef will entertain you by throwing eggs, rice and your dinner at you while you close your eyes and hold your bowl ready to catch the goodies (be warned, you will wear part of your meal...)

And my new hot tip?  It has been announced that Shaun Presland's Sake Restaurant out of Sydney will open a branch at Eagle Street Pier in October.  And yes, I will definitely be trying it out and yes, I will be blogging it...

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