Tag Archives: japanese

Restaurant Review: Nagomi, Eagle Street Pier, Brisbane

Nagomi is one of the new casual week day dining options at Eagle Street Pier, which regular viewers will recall has recently had a makeover. The offspring of Sono Restaurants, Nagomi is billed as fresh Japanese-on-the-go. This is hardly a unique idea, with a sushi place already on every block in the CBD. So what’s different about Nagomi?
First of all, the location offers views of the river and a certain cachet, being located in Brisbane’s premier dining precinct. Secondly, there’s an extensive seating area with communal tables under a shade sail. Thirdly, all food is presented in containers made of biodegradable recycled materials.

All this should add up to something pretty neat. But that’s the thing.  It doesn’t.

I joined the queue, perusing the menu on the fly. There’s a choice of bento boxes, sushi and side dishes. I love a good Bento box, and remember the good old days where an enormous bento box lunch at Sono set you back $15. Back then, I ate one at least once a week and chewed the fat with others in my industry, who also had no defence for the lure of light as a feather tempura, tangy teriyaki beef, perfectly seasoned rice and anything else the chef deigned suitable for our bento boxes.

I got to the front of the queue to be told that I could only order sushi at that station, and that I needed to join the other queue. OK, sure. I joined the other, longer queue to be told by the manager that we could order bento boxes at the other queue. The manager then turned his back to us to engage in a long chat to a mate passing by. Not a stunning introduction to Nagomi. I settled on the Teriyaki Beef Patty bento box and went with the option to substitute the rice portion for sushi for an extra $2, fearful that if I wanted sushi, I’d be asked to join yet another queue. I was given a number and took a seat at the indoor bar area with other lone diners. My number was called not long after that and the bento box presented at the counter, the ‘box’ entirely comprised of moulded paper containers in a larger cardboard tray. The stool wasn’t matched to the height for the bar, which necessitated leaning forward to operate my chopsticks.  Not a major problem, more an oversight on the part of the fitout designer that made eating a little awkward.  Perhaps a clever trick to ensure tables are turned over quickly? 

The contents of the bento box were however a problem. Salad with mesclun, mandarin segments and a scoop of potato salad were fine. Gyoza, crocquettes and a few edamame beans were OK, but not amazing. I had trouble getting the sushi pieces out of the cardboard container, as the rice was overcooked and had become welded to the cardboard. The fillings of spicy tuna, pork and tempura prawn were decent, but not what I would have chosen (if you take the sushi option, you do not get to choose your sushi). The beef patty tasted reminiscent of my mother’s meatloaf with some green beans, zucchini, carrot and a pool of tasteless brown sauce. The beef was cheap and over minced, without any pleasurable flavour or texture. Perfectly blanched green beans were easily the highlight of the bento box.

Nagomi has been open for 4 – 6 weeks with an interruption in trade during the floods, which damaged the underground infrastructure and food storage areas at Eagle Street Pier.  The concept is good, the location is great and there is serious money and resources at the venues disposal with its backing from the established Sono group.  I hope they can refine their service and food offering to successfully differentiate themselves from the myriad other Japanese lunch options available in the CBD.

Teriyaki Beef Patty Bento Box @ Nagomi

A little birdy tells me a new interstate player is opening in the last remaining tenancy, known for its waterside location and ‘hot’ kitchen.  Any guesses?

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.