Sharnee Rawson | The Courier-Mail | August 27, 2014
Monday night dinner in Brisbane? No need to book, we thought. But when we rocked up to the bustling Bird’s Nest Yakitori, the staff struggled to find us a seat, finally placing us in a tiny two-seater right near the door.
It left us craning our necks to see the best seats in the house, in front of the bar, where yakitori chefs deftly turn skewers, loaded with everything from gooey-centred quail eggs to flattened chicken hearts, over the smoky bamboo charcoal.
The service is rapid but polite; a small, complimentary bowl of chicken broth arrived as I was shrugging off my coat, and the staff asked to take our order before we’ve even opened the menu. And three more times after that. You will never feel ignored.
Food arrives as it is ready, leaving us with Yasai sticks ($5), thick batons of radish, cucumber and carrot, with little pots of miso and Japanese mayonnaise for dipping, and Kyabetsu ($3), a chunk of fresh cabbage showered with dressing and more mayonnaise as we waited for our skewers.
Aside from two pork belly options, chicken is the only protein on offer, in all its glorious forms. Hearts, liver, arteries, tail and even cartilage are threaded onto bamboo skewers turned crispy over the charcoal grills, and seasoned with shio (Himalayan salt) or tare (the house sauce).
Eating the Torikawa ($4), a perfect concertina of folded skin, was like picking the crispy skin of a roast chicken, albeit with more oil. Hatsu ($3, chicken hearts) and Hatsumoto ($3, arteries) are inconspicuous, rather than confronting, and have a strong iron taste.
The volley of skewers continued with four gently-seared, soft-centred quail eggs ($4), and cubes of deep fried organic tofu ($4) crowned with whisper-thin shallots and bonito flakes.
The sweet soy butter-brushed baby pearl onions ($2.50) outshone the okra ($2.50), which lacked crunch to offset the inner stickiness.
Crisp-edged yaki onigiri ($4), deliciously chewy grilled rice balls, broke up the skewer assault, and you can order a bunch of other Japanese favourites, such as free-range egg omelette, with dashi broth, chicken liver pate, karaage and curry to bulk up your meal.
Yakitori traditionally calls for beer, but the drinks list leaves you spoilt for choice. There’s a decent selection of Japanese bi-ru, including malty Yebisu, aged pale ale, and the familiar Asahi, Kirin and Sapporo, plus Tasmanian Moo Brews. Sake, Umeshu (plum wine) and an interesting range of Shochu, a distilled spirit based on a range of ingredients, including perilla leaf, barley or sweet potato, feature heavily, too. Wines are predominately European, with a few Australian numbers thrown in.
If it’s all a big too much, the set courses of seven skewers, with ($55) or without ($25) and amuse bouche, sake, rice and dessert, are well-priced. And, it’s worth mentioning, most of the menu is gluten-free. Skip the only dessert on offer — Shouga No Purin, a set ginger custard topped with liquid burnt caramel — and finish up with a cup of Houjicha (roasted green tea, $2).
Bird’s Nest Yakitori
Address Shop 5, 220 Melbourne St, South Brisbane
Phone (07) 3844 4306
Open Mon-Sun, 5.30pm-late. Fri from midday
Owner Marie Yokoyama and Emi Kamada