Category Archives: Uncategorized

Unfurling Wet Wings

Moth with wet wings

From where I sit in my living room in Hobart, a glass of sparkling wine I helped make in my hand, there’s an amazing view of the mirror smooth Derwent River before me, the twinkling lights of a myriad of pretty as a picture turn of the century houses glistening in the twilight. It’s a million miles away from the life I had when I last took the time to write here.

There’s a couple of hundred of missing diary entries between now and then. It’s not that I’ve been waiting for the muse to show up, in fact, I have become my own muse. What those diary entries might say, reading between the lines, is this: I am older, sometimes wiser, happier by far but mostly, changed.

I only tell the whole story to a few, it’s a fair commitment to listen from beginning to end. Seats are rarely that comfortable, evenings sufficiently long or glasses deep enough. Perhaps one day there’ll be a book, or a mini-series. I’m still working out the ending. I could be some time.

“Life changes fast. Life changes in the instant.” So wrote Joan Didion in her book about the journey of grieving, The Year of Magical Thinking. As dramatic as it sounds, what she says is true. Though perhaps not in the way the casual reader may think. The change is instant, though its ripples may take some time to reach the shore. So it was in my case.

Just three short years ago, I was running an IT company with my then husband of 13 years. I was the definition of a square peg in a round hole. The situation was stressful, suffocating and it seemed, inescapable. Before that, I’d had some reasonable success in my previous career and been able to parlay my natural talent for networking and putting together opportunities into a string of interesting jobs, starting out as an office junior and working my way up to a position as a commercial property consultant, working with developers and property trusts. Somewhere along the way, I had lost my sense of identity. I had few friends and had largely lost contact with my family. Though I appeared to those around me to be confident, successful and living the good life, in reality behind that seemingly happy exterior I was scared, isolated, overweight and frequently suicidal. There was very little I enjoyed in my life. I mostly felt trapped, and stupid for allowing myself to get into that kind of situation. My internal monologue was a near endless mental loop of self-loathing.

There was one bright patch though. In my ‘spare time’ I had two things that helped to keep me sane, and ultimately helped me to find a way forward. I wrote for about food, and in particular restaurants and bars for a couple of national publications. I ran monthly wine education events for consumers. These two activities connected me with warm, generous, ingenious, intelligent people who loved what I loved. I connected people with pleasure. I didn’t know what these things meant to me, but they felt good, so I kept doing them. They kept me on the right side of sanity.

The thing about change is this. Anyone can change, it only depends on what you are willing to sacrifice. In my case, I wanted to change for a long time. I didn’t know how. I didn’t believe I could. And from when I knew there was no other choice but to change, it still took six months for the ferment of change to travel beyond the confines of my anxious, serotonin starved brain.

So what happened? In an instant, or a short phone call, I was told one of my closest friends had died suddenly and unexpectedly. We had plans, lunch, and the promise of a great conversation we’d been working up to for some time. We had talked most days for a good while, about our writing, music and ideas. There was a really magical connection between us that I valued so much, particularly in my bleak and mentally muddled state. In that instant, all that was gone.

We both loved wine. He wrote about it. I taught about wine to others, sometimes we collaborated. In an effort to get some perspective on things and to be around people who understood how special our mutual friend was, I made tentative plans to spend a few weeks with winemaker friends in McLaren Vale over vintage, helping to make wine. There’s at least a couple of chapters in that interlude, save to say, I never went back to my job in the IT business and I am now working as a winemaker. A winemaker who has a lot to learn and who is thirsty for knowledge, impatient to succeed and surrounded by people who have much to teach.

Not everything is easy about this new life, but most mornings I wake up incredibly grateful for where I find myself. I pinch myself often as I walk to my car and look across the city below. I live in Tasmania! I do work I love, with people I admire, my life is ripe with wonderful experiences and opportunities. I’m learning to be kinder to myself, and there are some very special people in my life who are honest and supportive, which is something I’ve rarely felt before. There are still times when I am scared, but they pass and are far less frequent. I guess it takes time to change the emotional habits of a lifetime.

When I started this journey, I had no idea where it would take me. With each step, my heart opened a little bit more, and with this new vulnerability came opportunities. I tried things I would have once avoided for being too uncomfortable. I stopped worrying about failing. I stopped caring so much what people thought. My failure at being a good wife and creating a white picket fence kind of family life gave me a kind of freedom. Liberation. I landed a job in a wine shop, I tasted all kinds of things, worked on a big wine list, met amazing people, a few winemakers amongst them, went to see as many gigs as possible and found I had a lot of friends after all. My family welcomed me, the barriers came down. I found my self-worth, possibly for the first time in my life. There were many moments of meaningful coincidence, a harmony in the universe and more than a few episodes of eerie serendipity. This might all sound crazy but it really reinforced to me – I was on the right path. So I kept going. And I’m still going.

I can’t wait to find out what happens next.

On Friendship and Jeremy Pringle

There is much research about the value of friendships and their positive impact on mental and physical health. Accepted wisdom says that in a person’s lifetime they will only have a handful of close friends. Rarer still are those friends who can make sense of under-formed sentences, unguarded glances and half baked thoughts or pick up a conversation where it was left off several days, weeks or even months earlier. In the five or so years that I was fortunate enough to enjoy Jeremy Pringle’s friendship, we shared many conversations, about our appreciation for wine, food, books and music and about our writing. I fell hard for Jeremy’s writing – his obvious intellect, energetic quest for integrity and his appreciation of fragile and imperfect beauty.

We first connected on Twitter in conversation about a band. Wilco had released an album and were playing at The Tivoli in Brisbane. We both attended the gig, but for a number of reasons didn’t meet until later. This was to be one of the first of many passionate discussions about music, a subject where we had many overlapping preferences, though his knowledge of both trivia and technicalities always outshone mine. After eventually meeting in person, we both confessed that we’d each put rather too much thought into selecting just the right band t shirt to suit the occasion. Over time, we discovered that in the years before we met we had attended many of the same gigs, loved many of the same albums and had a touchstone of musical training and formative life experiences that informed our musical interests. We geeked out about old Silver Jews and Pavement albums, gigs with Stephen Malkmus, Rufus Wainwright and The National and marvelled at the emotional intensity of Fiona Apple’s latest album. We agreed in a quietly intense way that the double album JP got for his last birthday, Townes Van Zandt’s ‘Live At The Old Quarter, Houston, Texas’ was one of the most underrated live recordings of all time.

As Jeremy began to form a routine with his writing and his site Wine Will Eat Itself, reading and proof reading his tasting notes and articles became part of my daily routine. Snippets of background information regarding winemakers he’d met or more in depth opinions on wines he’d tasted were part of the exchange along with the minutiae of daily life. When I later became involved with running the Swirl Sniff Spit wine tasting events, Jeremy was an invaluable spring of knowledge, offering suggestions on tasting brackets, regions, producers and styles. He hosted a couple of tastings that remain in my mind as some of our most enjoyable events, a tasting of Grampians Shiraz with Julian Coldrey (of Full Pour) and an exploration of white Rhone blends with Rory Lane (The Story Wines). He was also instrumental in our decisions to host a champagne tasting with Dan Buckle of Chandon Australia and earlier a look at winemaker’s side projects with Steve Flamsteed (Giant Steps, Innocent Bystander, Salo) and Dave Mackintosh (Salo, Ar Fion) following publication of Jeremy’s first feature article in a national wine magazine which covered the same subject. On each occasion, he quietly dazzled attendees with his passion, deep knowledge and disarming humility. I felt proud to have such a clever and generous friend.

During our friendship, at seemingly alternating times, we supported one another through the loss of close friends and the derailments into depression that sometimes result. Jeremy could be hard to reach, but it was rewarding to be his friend. He probably never understood how much I valued his friendship and the perspective he could bring to a conversation, whatever the subject or its emotional gravity. Such was his habit of minimising or waving away his contribution to things. He could also be funny, with a keen sense of the ridiculous and a mischievous wit. It is heartening to see from the volume of posts across social media that so many others also valued Jeremy’s friendship and his contributions to wine writing and criticism.

As I write, I am surrounded by boxes of wine purchased on Jeremy’s recommendation and split cases we sourced together. We still had so many bottles we’d planned to share, places we wanted to eat and conversations parked for when we next caught up in person. I’ve finally begun watching ‘Breaking Bad’, one of the many TV shows and movies Jeremy recommended to me despite knowing how little TV I watch – it is of course fantastically good viewing – and will now diligently work my way through the list, perhaps skipping Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

In one of our last conversations we shared a joke about beer schooners and discussed philosopher Gilles Deleuze’s analysis of Lewis Carroll’s writings, a fine example of the kind of ground a conversation with Jeremy could cover. I’m immensely sad to lose Jeremy, to lose the opportunity to read his next article, to hear his perspective on wine and the events of the day, his recommendations for music and books. But mostly to lose a beautiful and special friend. My thoughts are with his parents, Bruce and Merryl who now find themselves in a situation no parent should ever have to bear.

A celebration of Jeremy’s life will be held at 2pm, Friday 15 August at Taringa Baptist Church, 36 Morrow Street, Taringa.

Clay’s Chicken Parmi

Grief is never far away, but it visits less often now.

Sometimes I look in the mirror and see parts of you in my reflection. Or I just hear Flame Trees or Khe Sanh playing inside my head. I don’t think Cold Chisel and Barnesy ever had a bigger fan than you.

I see a board outside a pub for a counter meal or a parmi and I’m thinking about you again. You always had your finger on the pulse about where the best ‘countery’ could be had.

There’s that excellent Chinese restaurant where I think we last ate together, with Phebe and the kids, that I can’t think about going back to any more. I hear they do fantastic duck pancakes, and think of how how you studied the menu and ordered the oddest thing on it, an unlikely fusion of Spanish and Chinese flavours, just because it sounded strange.

I learnt a lot from you, and you were the man of my dreams as a little girl. When I got older I realised that while you loved your family and your friends, you never held back with an opinion, even if at first it might have upset people. It wasn’t because you were a bastard, it was how you showed you cared. You weren’t always right but I came to admire your conviction and integrity. Even now sometimes when I’m feeling unsure about what to do or what to believe in when things get hard, I wish you were here to tell it to me straight. Maybe over a chocolate eclair at Henri’s.

I feel like I should have called you more often, or hung out more as we got older and our lives became busy and full of work and our own families. But our friendship wasn’t really like that. We could pick it up again whenever we saw one another.

That mischievous giggle, just like your Dad’s, and all the crazy stories of that time you ……………… Everyone who knew you has their own story about you and your crazy capers.

I have to stop myself when tears start to well up as I think about you. Even though I’d love to ask your opinion about the choices I make in my life, and to hear what you think about people, you remind me to enjoy it. Not the big deal fancy stuff, you didn’t care about that. You remind me to enjoy each day, to have better conversations, to be true to my convictions and to have a bloody good laugh along the way.

And even though you thought I was a food snob, your chicken parmis were awesome. I wish I knew the recipe.

Tasting Wine & Drinking In Bars

Two very different activities.

Tasting wine an exploration, a sensory adventure or interrogation. Drinking in bars more of an opportunity for social observation.

A couple of weeks back, I received an invitation to the Royal Queensland Food & Wine Show 2012 Exclusive Wine Tasting Evening. I was so exhausted from reading the title of the event, that I had little energy to refuse such a generous invitation. It goes without saying that I’d spend a Friday evening drinking wine, so it seemed logical to taste wine and try something new, all in one convenient package.

Some minor misunderstanding about the order of events saw us arrive part way into an engaging speech from Iain Riggs, chief winemaker at Brokenwood and advocate of the wine show system. A more punctual audience appeared in no particular hurry for this formal part of the evening to conclude, which was a pleasant change to the crowds at some other large wine tasting events. The drawing of some lucky door prizes saw us free to redeem a tasting glass and work out how to approach the massed wines before us.

Almost 2,000 wines were entered into the show, and then judged in classes which are based on variety or style, age and production volume. Panels of judges award scores out of a 100 to each wine, with upper ranges of scores bracketed into Bronze, Silver and Gold. Additionally, trophies are awarded to stand out wines and producers. A full list of show results is available here.

I must admit, I would have happily stopped without heading over to the table of Gold medal winners. I enjoyed having the opportunity to taste different styles and different regional expressions side by side and completely at my own pace. I seemed to be breaking a lot of seals, and we had little competition in the non-Gold medal tasting area. That these wines weren’t Gold medal winners doesn’t mean there wasn’t some fantastic wines on offer. In fact a few of my favourites were there, some languishing at the no-medal end of their class. There was also plenty of wines I’d read about or thought about buying and one or two that I couldn’t spit quick enough. All part of the experience.

The sheer number of wines in some classes surely makes it hard for some of the quieter wines to stand out, and additionally some wines entered in 1 year old classes would surely do better entered into mature wine classes in a future show, and in a few cases, vice versa. The judges undoubtedly have a challenging task and its natural to question how valid results can be reached through the process, though equally difficult to reimagine another process that would be fairer and yet still logistically achievable. To his credit, Riggs had addressed these challenges head on in his speech earlier in the evening.

Whatever you think of the show system, this event was highly enjoyable and my only complaint was that it was over too soon. A quick sweep of the Gold medal winners, presided over by a rather fierce fellow, and a generous glass of fortified poured by a cheeky older chap who smilingly ignored him, and we were out on Gregory Terrace waiting for a cab, with our fellow tasters, or drinkers, rosy cheeked in the mild Brisbane evening.

Saturday evening and I found myself at my neighbourhood bar of choice, Super Whatnot. Brisbane’s still a pub town, and there’s very few purpose built bars in the CBD. Hotel bars just aren’t the place to be when it’s your own town. There needs to be interesting beers on tap, good wine by the glass and people behind the bar who know their way around serious cocktails. Maybe some whisky too. Oh, and I don’t want to feel like I have to dress up too much to be there. And small plates of salty, snacky things that aren’t peanuts or those Indian crackers. So really, I’m not picky. I’m also unlikely to help the venue lure in other patrons with my stunning good looks and on-trend fashions.

There’s no gimmicks about Super Whatnot. It’s in a laneway, and indirectly the result of a previous government scheme to inject ‘life’ into the CBD by supporting small venues and flexible licensing. Sounded great on paper but fizzled as other more pressing matters came along. Much has been written about its former life as a beauty school storeroom, but it’s a place with its own personality, through clever design and finely crafted details. The hexagonal motif of the Super Whatnot logo is subtly carried through to coasters, tiles and even the spigots as taps in the bathrooms. It’s a mixed crowd, loud backpackers, middle aged couples checking out that place they read about before they head somewhere else for dinner, awkward people on dates, groups of young mums and dads out on a leave pass (in separate never-to-mix groups, obviously) and representatives of one or more social stereotypes. What could be finer than sitting back, something good to drink in hand with the best view of humanity in town? Tickets to the show are free with the purchase of any drink.

The craft beers and wines by the glass change regularly, and on my recent visit I found the ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ dark ale and the Le Petite Mort chardonnay both pretty easy to drink. The ‘American style’ bar food is full of direct flavours, with Cubano sandwiches, quesadillas and a mean black bean dip some of my favourite food in town.

The other thing I keep reading about Super Whatnot is that it has a ‘New York vibe’ and I can only assume these things are written by people who haven’t been to New York. Because if we were in New York, the overly sweet drinks would cost three times as much, the music would be ten types of awful and the patrons at least twice as crass and homogenous.

Super Whatnot is a small, well-realised and original venue. The eclectic musical selections have you ordering another drink just to see what’s next. You might have guessed that I kinda like it. In fact, I’m even thinking of dressing up for my next visit. I feel I owe it to the place.

Many thanks to the RNA for their invitation to the Royal Queensland Wine Show and to Michelle Levings of Foxed Glove for making it happen.

Thanks also to Super Whatnot for helping that 30-something guy at the next table get a chance with a very patient lady last Saturday night.

Short Order – September in Brisbane

I took most of this weekend off and here’s where we ate and drank.

On our circuit of the city and Southbank we checked out progress at the River Bend development. It’s tucked up at the Goodwill Bridge end of Southbank and a tranquil curve has been carved out in the riverbank for 6 – 7 new restaurants and bars. The landscaped amphitheater that’s been created down by the river was a nice spot to catch some sun on a very windy morning. The design by local firm Arkefield makes the most of the riverside location and I’m keen to see what Stokehouse, The Jetty, Cove and others do with the space. Fitouts seem to be in full swing with only the interior of Stokehouse visible from up on Goodwill Bridge.

We decided to try Jeremy’s (Albert Street, City) on our way home. We’ve previously been put off by the rather odd breakfast menu that is divided into two – with one half stating that there may be a wait of up to 20 – 30 minutes for dishes to be served. Anyhow, it’s a lovely room and at least the slightly over earnest menu writing signals that there is effort being made. The coffee was excellent and our choices of turkish style scrambled eggs and savory mince on toast with a poached egg were both delicious and elegantly presented. The coffee is up there with the top 3 I’ve had in the CBD and the bacon is AMAZING. Its thick cut and delicious. The dining room is super stylish and over flowing with lots of interesting bottles. Top that off with very polished service – even at breakfast – and I reckon I’ll be checking out Jeremy’s again soon.

I’d been seeing a bit of a buzz on Twitter about Bitter Suite, a new craft been place in the New Farm. In a somewhat cursed spot in Welsby Street, we dropped in around 4pm but didn’t stay. The staff member who approached us was pretty unwelcoming and seemed in hurry to tell us there was no food available. Bitter Suite seems like a good concept but the space has all the atmosphere of a school cafeteria and is a little hard to navigate. Maybe there are a few teething issues since it is brand spanking new. Since we were after drinks and a snack we wandered up to Teneriffe towards Beccofino.

This place just works. The décor is minimalist, the menu is brief and the service is perfectly tuned to a lazy couple of hours of food and wine. Everything tastes delicious, from the charry thin pizzas with simple flavour combinations and quality ingredients to the specials, on this occasion an generous veal cotoletto and garlicy, briney scampi pasta. There’s plenty of interest on the brief wine list, Hoddles Creek Pinot Noir and prosecco by the glass, some decent Italian reds by the bottle all at democratic prices. The no bookings policy can be a pain, but the kitchen stays open throughout the afternoon which is perfect for the next meal after Sunday brunch.

On Sunday I made the trek out to SuperButcher to stock up for a couple of weeks. I’m not convinced its really as cheap as people would like to believe, but the range is good and if you want to but whole rib fillets, rumps, sides of lamb etc then its definitely the place to go. There’s enough interesting cuts and products to make it worth a trip every now and then. But rug up if you go since the large store is one big cool room. Beef cheeks and the made to order sausages (lamb, fetta, pumpkin; beef, cheese and vegemite; venison) are worth checking out too.

After a few productive hours at the office, we ambled down to the river to check out the $7 Sunday deal we’d seen advertised at Boardwalk Bar & Bistro. It seems as though the management here has changed or at least there’s been a few fresh ideas. This is a huge venue on the river below Kingsleys and out the front of Riparian Plaza. I’ve not been the hugest fan in the past and sometimes queuing up, paying with your order, collecting your drinks from the bar and eating at a communal table or on a stool is not what I’m after, but I’ll punt anything for $7. What does that get you? After 5pm on a Sunday it buys you a pizza about the size of a dinner plate and a schooner of domestic mainstream beer. The pizza is very serviceable and the beer is cold and there’s much worse places to be on a Sunday evening than overlooking the river and Story Bridge. Our total bill came to $33 for a thin, crispy peperoni pizza, good chips, schooner of beer and a further jug of beer. The view on a perfect September night in Brisbane was, as they say, priceless.

Support Brisbane Restaurants – Qld Flood Update

Many local businesses throughout Brisbane have been affected by floods.  Some however are still open – if you are able to do so, please support these local business people so that they can continue to pay wages, support growers and suppliers.

This will be updated as more information is available.  If you have information that isn’t included here, please leave a comment.

New Farm – Confit.  Open for business.  Follow @confit_bistro for updates

Pintxo – Open for business.  Follow @pintxonewfarm for updates

Jocelyns – no damage.  Reopening soon.

Fortitude Valley – Cloudland.  Open for business.

Limes Rooftop Bar.  Open for business.

Majo’s, Portofino Cafe, Alibi Room, Home Ground Cafe, Brunswick St.  Open for business.

Tuckeria.  Open for business.

Freestyle, Emporium – Open for busienss.

Tartufo reporting no damage.  Expected to reopen soon.

Anise – Open for Business.

Teneriffe – Claret House.  Open for Business.

Bulimba – Scales & Ales.  Open for business.  Follow @scalesandales for updates.

Riverbend Books & Cafe. Open for business.  Follow @RiverbendBooks for updates.

Most Bulimba cafes and restaurants are still trading.

Hamilton – Baguette, Bretts Wharf, Dandelion & Driftwood all undamaged and open for business.

CBD – The Villager.  Open for Business.  Follow @thevillagerhote for updates.

Bar Barossa.  Open for Business.

Moda Restaurant.  Open for business from dinner 16/1/11.

Restaurant Two.  Open for business from dinner 16/1/11.

Alchemy Restaurant.  Being inspected for structural damage over the next two weeks.

Pig and Whistle, Milano and Jimmys On The Mall – Open for business

Sugar n Spice, Bar Moda both open and serving coffee.

Il Centro, Cha Cha Char, Aria, Bavarian Bier Cafe, Sake, Judes  - no power, still dry.  Not open, but hoping to be back soon.  Follow @ilcentrosomm for updates on Il Centro and Eagle St Pier.

Urbane and The Euro – Possibly some damage to function area in basement.  Hope to reopen soon.

Tank Restaurant – Reopening 17/1/11

Taro’s Ramen - Open for Business.  More details here.

Paddington – Open for Business.

Paddo Tavern – open for trade throughout.

West End – Lefkas still serving locals at last notice

Freestyle, some damage to coolroom.  More updates as they come to hand.  follow @dessertboy for updates

GunShop Cafe – clean up work underway, hope to be open during next week.

Kim Thanh, no reported damage but waiting for power to be restored.   Likely to reopen next week. Follow @bao_la for updates.

South Brisbane – Granada and Jost 154 both dry.  Currently closed.

South Bank Surf Club, no flood damage.  Currently closed.

Woolloongabba – Enoteca and all restaurants in top end of Logan Road at Woollongabba are open and trading as usual.

Spring Hill – Togninis open for business.

Camp Hill – Restaurant Rapide open for business.

Milton – Togninis closed and flood affected.

Initiatives to Support

Australian Wine Trade Flood Relief Raffle

This amazing inititiave was put together by Tyson Stelzer and you can follow @winepress for updates.  At last count, more than $100,000 of wine pledges have been made.

Victorian Restaurants Unite for QLD Flood Relief  Led by Alistair and Erez from Church Street Enoteca, this initiative brings together the Victorian hospitality with the aim of raising $1M during January.  Follow @vicrestunite and @churchstenoteca for updates.

Sydney – Colin Fassnidge of Four In Hand and Franz Scheurer putting together some fundraiser dinners. Email [email protected] for more info. follow @fourinhand and @blues_junkie for updates.

Restaurant Review: Mizu, Teneriffe

I have Anna Bligh and Campbell Newman to thank for discovering this place.  Or more specifically Brisbane Transport’s 199 bus.  It took four years of living in the city centre and the introduction of the GoCard system for me to contemplate that taking a bus to dinner might have its advantages.  This route runs from the Teneriffe Ferry through New Farm, Fortitude Valley, CBD, West End, Highgate Hill and Fairfield, passing at least 50 restaurants and cafes along the way.  As I wouldn’t think of dining without drinking or drinking and driving, this has been a boon for my desire to try more Brisbane restaurants more often.

We visited Mizu by chance on a walk to Teneriffe.  We’d spotted it from the 199 bus, busy on a Tuesday night. The atmosphere here is relaxed and unpretentious with welcoming and competent older Japanese staff looking after the floor.  There’s none of the stuffy formality you’ll find at some Japanese restaurants, no tatami mats and no kimonos.  Mizu is all about enjoying Japanese food informed by local ingredients and climate in a neighbourhood restaurant setting. 

The dining area is simple with polished concrete floors, unclothed tables and seating spilling from inside to a covered outdoor area.  Look above the counter and you’ll see sake bottles labelled with the names of regular patrons, in the best Iza kaya tradition.  The selection here effortlessly trumps Brisbane Japanese fine dining venues and so does the food. (Perhaps overtaken in the last few days by the just-opened Sake at Eagle Street Pier).

We snacked on a bowl of edamame as big as your head and enjoyed a couple of Sapporo beers with our entrees. Distinct courses are a Western concept, but the staff at Mizu happily accommodate our habit for entrees and mains.  The sashimi is presented with artistry showcasing a selection of tuna, salmon, kingfish, scallop, prawn, shredded daikon and expertly prepared wasabi.  The fish is fresh and alive with flavour and colour.  The ‘mizupaccio’ is a Mizu’s own interpretation of carpaccio and is prepared using sashimi quality fish, in this case meaty hiramasa kingfish, sliced thinly to showcase its texture and finished with grapeseed oil, shiso flakes and lemon.  The simple but beautiful rough glazed Japanese pottery further enhances our entrees.  The food is complemented by the quiet and friendly service and beautiful Japanese woodcuts.  A light breeze from the river and another Sapporo – I could stay here all summer.

There’s enough interest in the mains offered at Mizu to have you returning regularly with sushi and sashimi, substantial salads, two course bento boxes, agemono and yakimono.   Agemono courses at Japanese restaurants are often greasy Gaijin pleasers, and whilst tonkatsu, tempura and kara-age all feature here, the quality of the ingredients and cooking elevate them to a higher plane.  The simply described ‘prawn and mango’ perfectly sums up Mizu -fresh local sweet prawns cooking in light, crisp tempura batter, expertly seasoned with saikyo miso sauce arranged in a salad of mizuna and ripe mango slices with a judicious slick of Mizu’s own dressing.  Steamed koshihikari rice, real miso and tsukemono pickles complement the menu.

Mizu also offers what may be Brisbane’s only traditional Japanese breakfast.  Okonomiyaki are Japanese style  pancakes which are a favourite for many Aussies who’ve visited Japan and Mizu version doesn’t disappoint.   Loco moco is the Mizu breakfast ‘man meal’ with rough minced wagyu steak, fried egg, sukiyaki sauce, sesame, steamed rice and misu.  The breakfast bento box is a great way to sample the traditional Japanese breakfast constituents with grilled miso marinated black cod, agemono octopus, perfect kare-age chicken with sea salt flakes, sunomono and Japanese pickles, miso and rice.  Quality sencha and genmai-cha green teas are served in traditional Japanese teapots and small cups.  Matcha, a sort of green tea latte, hort blacks, cappuccino and flat white are available too.

Mizu further commends itself to regular visits by welcoming BYO wine at a very reasonable $4 a head corkage.  I reckon you could have alot of fun matching wine with this menu.

After trading successfully for four years and building up great regular patronage, Mizu doesn’t need your support.  But you’d be mad to miss out on its authentic but unpretentious Japanese food.

Mizu Japanese Eats

2 Macquarie Street


07 3254 0488

Lunch and dinner 7 days a week

Breakfast Saturday and Sunday from 8am – 11am

Fully licensed and BYO Wine

Takeaway available

Mizu Sushi Cooking School

Restaurant Review: Taro’s Ramen and Cafe, Brisbane

Here in Brisbane, Japanese food has become ubiquitous, the go-to ethnic food for when you’re after something tasty and relatively inexpensive.  Sushi places are in every food court and in the CBD there’s at least one for every city block, often more.   At the ‘fine dining’ end of the market there’s Sono, Oshin and very soon Shaun Presland’s Sake which will open at Eagle Street Pier in the next few months.  Shinichi Maeda, formerly of Wasabi at Noosa (and Sunshine Beach before that) will be head chef at this new location.

The Brisbane CBD generally suffers from a lack of choice when it comes to mid-priced, casual restaurants.  The sort of ‘come as you are’ place with a short menu of simple unfussy food, a good wine list covering the basics and warm, friendly staff.  The stuff of my fantasies.  And oddly, the stuff that neighbourhood restaurants in Japanese cities are all about.  Which is why Taro’s is my new favourite place.

Every claim Chef Taro makes about his food is spot on.  They really do have the best Japanese curry in Brisbane.  And that’s not even the main event.  The tonkotsu ramen is made with an amazing stock, lovingly made by simmering Bangalow pork bones for 16 hours.  Taro’s handmade noodles are delicate with just the right amount of bite.  And it doesn’t stop there.  There are five ramen dishes with variations on stock, sweet bangalow pork slices, beautiful organic nori that crackles and sparks with iodine, house made char sui, pickled ginger and mustard greens, perfect soy eggs and crunchy bamboo shoots.  The deeply earthy and smoky chilli oil is also highly recommended. 

For a mere $1.20 more than the food court, you can try ‘the best chicken curry in town’.  Chef Taro delivers.  Again, Bangalow pork bone stock forms the base, the curry sauce is deep and complex without the acid after taste you’ll find in the food court version.  It is accompanied by expertly prepared japanese rice and your choice of chicken, pork, veggie croquettes or prawns and a topping of sweet lotus root pickles.

For now I’m addicted to the ramen, but I’m keen to grab a few friends for Chef Taro’s sweet pork shabu shabu.  After a long wait Taro’s now has a liquor license and small but well considered list.  For example, you can have an Asahi for $6.80 or a bottle of Bridgewater Mill 2008 Chardonnay for $33.

The casual dining area is comfortable and one of the CBD’s best kept secrets, stretching out onto a cool and private outdoor terrace.  Even the way the tables are set and the beautiful Japanese handpainted bowls and spoons demonstrate Taro’s passion and attention to detail.  Staff are friendly and welcoming and as Taro points out, paid at or above the Award.  Yet another point of difference over the food court ‘competition’.

Taro’s is open Monday to Saturday for lunch and dinner.  For just over $20 you could do worse that a cold Asahi and a bowl of Taro’s beautiful ramen.

All the goodness has been boil’t out

I wanted to share this cookie cutter, 4 month late response from the Queensland Government to my letter calling on them to allow the sale of raw milk, with appropriate health warnings, by small retailers to consumers who want access to the product.

This letter simply glossed over the well researched arguments put forward, complete with citations in favour of a bunch of waffle that was not relevant to the specific concerns and requests raised in my letter.

Not quite the Smart State yet.