Moustache Magazine

WHEN you think of treating yourself to a Japanese meal, the mind immediately halts at one of the many sushi restaurants in the local area. The much loved sushi train is far from an exclusive dining experience; you’ll find them dotted all over the place, satisfying many hungry Brisbanites who feel like being a little more sophisticated come suppertime.

Yakitori (which translates into English as ‘grilled bird’) is a dining concept from Japan where food is marinated and grilled to perfection over hot Binchoutan, or, white charcoal. For the first time, yakitori has been brought to Brisbane by Bird’s Nest restaurant, reinvigorating West End’s late-night dining scene with authentic Japanese cuisine.

Breaking out of the mold of sushi and sashimi, Bird’s Nest serve an impressive selection of skewers and sides traditionally offered in Yakitori Bars in Japan. Last week, co-owners Emi Kamada and Marie Yokoyama invited Moustache Magazine along to experience their menu, and we were not disappointed. As Australians, our barbequing skills are fairly top-notch, but you may question those talents when you get a taste of what Bird’s Nest has to offer.

Image: Andrea Love

Image: Andrea Love

A Japanese designer specially designed the interior of this West End restaurant, creating an authentic atmosphere, with a modern twist. Rich wooden tabletops are contrasted with dark walls, creating a congenial environment that complements the dining experience.

Our meal began with an amuse bouche of chicken broth and a glass of Asahi. There are a number of different menu sets available, giving the diner an opportunity to experience a variety of different dishes; or if you have a preference for a select few skewers, you can pick and choose. We started with a dish of homemade Leba pate, a rich, soy-based pate served with crusty bread.

Emi and Marie are big believers in quality food and service, and this does not go unnoticed. Using only the freshest produce, all skewers are made daily and cooked to order, and if you’re lucky enough to score a spot right in front of the chefs, you’ll have a frontline view of your dinner as it cooks over the white charcoal. Imported from Vietnam, Binchoutan is a material derived from oak and can reach up to 1000 degrees Celsius. This white charcoal is the secret behind the flavoursome cooking, and is prized by many yakitori chefs.

Skewers are flavoured with either Shio or Tare. Shio is Himalayan salt, which complements the delicious smoky taste of the charcoal and enhances the natural flavor of the ingredients. Tare is the master sauce, made using a secret recipe passed down from a famous Yakitori Bar in Japan. When the skewers are dipped into the Tare, over time, the charcoal essence is infuses into the sauce. You can view which skewers use which seasoning on the menu.

The selection of skewers to choose from is fairly extensive, and while we had the pleasure of sampling them all, a few standout plates included the chicken hearts, asparagus and wasabi mayonnaise, quail eggs, moisture infused Murray Valley pork belly and okra with soy butter. Actually, there was nothing that wasn’t short of delicious. If you’re a little dubious about offal, I suggest biting the bullet and trying some from the Bird’s Nest menu. The flavour of the white charcoal, combined with salt or tare may transform your opinion. I, an open lover of all food, ate chicken hearts, arteries and livers with absolute delight. Our meal was complete with the in-house dessert specialty; a Japanese-style, ginger infused crème caramel. No words can describe the taste sufficiently, except for ‘foodgasm’.

Now you can’t have yakitori without beer, and the selection on the beverage menu will ensure a true Japanese experience. From well-known classics like Asahi and Kirin to some premium choices like Koshihikari Rice Lager and Yebisu, the drinks are sure to bring out some of the best flavours from your meal. The wine and sake list is compiled by a local sommelier, with a focus on organic or bio-dynamically produced beverages.

Glorious food is one thing, but customer service can really make or break a restaurant. The lovely owners, chefs and staff from Bird’s Nest know how to make diners feel welcome from the moment they set foot in the door. A quick glance at the frequent exchanges between staff and guests throughout the night indicated that customer service is an important part of the experience at Bird’s Nest.

Bird’s Nest follows the philosophy; ‘placing emphasis on the beauty of the product, leaving no room to hide’ and this is viewpoint was clear throughout the entire evening. Gone are the days where one takes a date to the sushi train, in an attempt to look cultured and refined. If you’re looking for an authentic Japanese experience, you cannot go past Bird’s Nest Yakitori and Bar in West End.

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