The round-up: Brisbane’s best Japanese restaurants
Apologies to any culinary aesthetes reading this, but we feel like a bit of clarification in order – there is so much more to Japanese cuisine than sushi and ramen noodles. The depth of Japanese cuisine is incredibly large, and sometimes it is hard to get a grasp on the diversity without jumping on a plane bound to Tokyo and beyond. It’s not a completely lost cause for Japanese cuisine in Brisbane, however. There are numerous eateries delivering delicious Japanese fare comparable to the real deal. We’ve assembled a list of some of the best.
Hôntô, Fortitude Valley: Although finding Hôntô in its tucked-away position in the heart of The Valley might be a little bit of a challenge at first, it’s well worth the search. This restaurant specialises in cutting-edge Japanese cuisine, prepped and served within one of the most jaw-dropping interiors you’re likely to see in Brisbane. Eats include the likes of grilled Hokkaido scallops with nori butter and bonito flakes, Moreton Bay bug katsu sandos, shiitake and vegetable dumplings with kombu dashi, and smoked chicken with soybean and cultured-cream puree, burnt butter and black garlic.
Yoko, Brisbane City: This Japanese-inspired bar and eatery from acclaimed restaurateur Jonathan Barthelmess (Greca) takes cues from the lively izakayas of Japan, but delivers this atmosphere with a distinct retro-futurist aesthetic. The flavour profiles lean towards acidic, ponzu and citrus-based tones, rather than heavier mayo-doused morsels, with a menu encompassing Hiramasa kingfish with sesame and cucumber, scallops with yuzu kosho and silken tofu, pork katsu steamed buns, calamari with yuzukosho, fried pork-chop tonkatsu, teriyaki fish collar, wagyu porterhouse on the bone and pork kakuni bossam.
Shunsai, East Brisbane: Shunsai Restaurant focuses on Japanese-style fine dining, offering an intimate experience with dishes made with fresh, locally sourced and in-season ingredients. Specialising in kaiseki in particular, chef Shun Mori delivers a degustation-style collection of small dishes, intricately assembled to highlight flavour, colour and seasonality.
Bird’s Nest Yakitori & Bar, West End and Fortitude Valley: For the unfamiliar, yakitori is a Japanese style of grilled chicken skewers. A staple of Japanese izakaya menus and street-food hubs, yakitori skewers are typically cooked over a charcoal fire, a technique also employed at Bird’s Nest Yakitori. Both locations cook its succulent morsels over special Binchoutan (or white charcoal) grills, serving up the likes of traditional chicken meatballs, Willi Willi Creek pork belly, chicken hearts, vegetables and more.
Saké Restaurant & Bar, Brisbane City: Contemporary Japanese cuisine is the star of this Eagle Street restaurant’s offering, which foregrounds unique flavour combinations with Australian produce and visually stunning presentation. Saké Restaurant’s a la carte menu encompasses hot and cold dishes such as hiramasa kingfish and nasu dengaku eggplant, as well as sumptuous kushiyaki, makimono sushi rolls and impressive lunch bentos.
Bishamon Japanese Restaurant, Spring Hill: Spring Hill’s Bishamon is a family-owned restaurant that serves up some seriously stellar dishes designed to be shared with friends. Wagyu beef tataki, pan-fried pork dumplings, okonomi rolls, tempura fish cakes, grilled salmon fillets with soy and butter sauce, and thick udon noodle soups will be enough to fill, but the rest of the menu will have you coming back again and again.
Hikari, Teneriffe: A relative newcomer to Brisbane’s dining scene, Hikari has wasted no time in building a reputation for its izakaya-style eats and casual-cool atmosphere. Traditional Japanese options a slight tweaking to break the mould slightly while making the food approachable for all. Must-try options include the hiramasa kingfish with yuzu soy, fresh jalapeno and truffle oil, deep-fried soft-shell crab salad with shrimp chips, donburi rice bowls, Hiroshima-style okonomu-yakisoba and katsu sandos.
Oishii Sushi Bar, Sunnybank: Sunnybank’s go-to for phenomenal Japanese eats boasts an extensive menu, so it’s best to start small and work your way up. Garlic butter scallops, pickled seaweed salads and tori karaage are great starting points, and from there we suggest working your way through the likes of spicy scallop sashimi, cone-shaped temaki sushi, Japanese-style fried rice wrapped in omelette and tempura udon.
Hosokawa, Hamilton: The local favourite is a bona fide star of the Japanese cuisine scene in Brisbane, with a menu that casts an eye across several of Japan’s culinary essentials. We hear the miso eggplant, the tuna karaage and the sushi is phenomenal, but with substantial a la carte offering to pick from we encourage you to experiment.
Sono Japanese Restaurant, Hamilton: Japanese fine dining doesn’t get much more fine than Sono. This award-winning concept delivers a multi-faceted dining experience, from casual lunch options, refined dinner settings and a scintillating teppanyaki offering. From sushi and sashimi platters, gyu tataki, skewered wagyu tenderloin, black cod saiko taki and seafood ishiyaki, Sono has incorporated the width and breadth of Japanese cuisine under one roof.
Taro’s Ramen, various locations: Ramen bars are a staple of quick and casual Japanese dining, and Taro’s Ramen is one of the best proponents of nourishing noodle-laden broth in Brisbane. Across his four locations, Taro has painstakingly perfected his core range of ramen, including classic tonkotsu, shoyu, shio and tsukemen. Beyond the ramen, Taro also dishes out the likes of chicken karaage, spicy cold tofu, homemade gyoza, curries, chicken schnitzel sandwiches and more.
Yuzu & Co, Milton: Yuzu & Co delivers delicious contemporary Japanese Park Road in Milton, with enough unique twists to make it truly memorable. Some of the out-of-the-box menu items include brie cheese tempura, sashimi tacos, gobo-root chips, soft-shell crab burgers, beef teriyaki, nasu dengaku, eel teriyaki and spicy tempura prawns.
Koto Sanpo, Brisbane City: The FudoDori precint is a burgeoning hub of Asian eateries, with numerous cuisines represented. Koto Sanpo is inspired by Kyoto’s teahouse and cafe scene, serving up coffee, matcha-infused latte bowls, sweet frappes, floats and desserts with an influx of savoury options, including bento boxes, sandos, udon, chicken nanban sets, pork katsu teishoku, temari sushi balls and even sweet potato and matcha parfaits available until the evening.
Mizu, Teneriffe: Fresh local produce is transformed into delightful contemporary Japanese bites at Teneriffe’s Mizu, exemplified across its bountiful lunch and dinner menus. We love the sound of Mizu’s bento and teishoku sets, but if we have the urge to splurge then you can see us tucking into the likes of deep-fried panko-crumbed pork fillet, crab and soba salad, yellowfin tuna steaks and unagi rolls.
Moga, Rosalie: Taking inspiration from Japanese izakaya-style dining, Rosalie’s Moga specialises in small dishes that are to be enjoyed with a frosty beer, sake, wine or cocktail. The best way to eat is to order a variety of dishes, with robata grill morsels such as plum yakitori chicken, pork spare ribs and tomato and bacon kushi sharing menu space with sashimi, nigiri, tempura dishes, flame-grilled bites and more.
Ku-O Japanese Restaurant, Sunnybank and Ku-O at the Gabba, Woolloongabba: When your concept is so red-hot that you expand to other suburbs, it’s a sure sign that you’re onto something good (and delicious). Ku-O does not compromise on quality, freshness or authenticity when it comes to Japanese fare – the wagyu katsu is an absolute game-changer and the dessert menu is definitely worth saving room for.
Okuman Karaage & Ramen Bar, South Brisbane: If there is anything that pairs with soft-shell baos, wasabi octopus and anf agedashi tofu better than an ice-cold beer or glass of sake, we’d like to hear it. Izakana-ya Okuman delivers the goods across both food and drink, with more than a dozen varieties of sake, a clutch of Japanese beers and some choice Japanese whiskies sublimely suiting the small-plate style fare.
What about ramen? Well, we believe that this dish deserves a round-up all to itself. If you’re after Brisbane’s best ramen joints, click here.
Have a suggestion that you think we’ve missed? Let us know about your favourite Japanese restaurant at [email protected].
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