Japanese food: Chopstick etiquette, sake drinking and top spots for Japanese food in southeast Queensland

Courier Mail | Taste Life Out | 28th October 2014

GREAT Japanese food used to be defined by a classic dish, executed faultlessly.

Chefs’ pursuits of culinary perfection are well documented — both the 1985 film Tampopo and the 2011 documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi follow their character’s dream to craft the perfect bowl of ramen and sushi, respectively.

In Brisbane, a slew of new restaurants showcasing sophisticated, modern Japanese food are leaving diners hungry for more.

Birds Nest Restaurant

In West End, Bird’s Nest Yakitori’s offerings of skewered chicken hearts, arteries, livers, soft cartridge and the skin may be new to local diners, but yakitori concept is a mainstay in Japan.

Co-owner and chef Marie Yokoyama said some customers needed a little convincing at first.

“Some people come in and ask for sushi — it’s hard to convert them and get to them to sit down, but once they’re tried it, they become a regular. (The concept) has really taken and we’re so grateful,” she said.

The average skewer, grilled to order, spends two to three minutes over the binchotan — white hot charcoal — but parts like the bonjiri (parson’s nose or the tail) and torikawa (skin) are grilled for 10 minutes, to render out the fat until it turns super crispy.

“We go through about 10kg of hearts a week and 15 to 20kg of parson’s nose. There is a lot more variety in Japan that we just can’t get here. There, you can also buy the neck meat, which is skewered into tiny strips, but it’s impossible to get here.”

Ms Yokoyama opened Bird’s Nest with Emi Kamada, a friend of 10 years, who she met while working as food and beverage manager at the Stamford Plaza.

“We wanted to bring a piece of Japan to Brisbane, and do something different to sushi, sashimi and tempura. We both went to Japan and studied yakitori, and brought the concept home.”

The duo have also put together a cracking drinks list, with a good range of Japanese beers, scotch whiskey, shochu (distilled spirit) and ume shu (plum wine).

“Some people have an image of drinking sake hot or shooting it back — that’s not how you’re meant to drink it at all. Our menu breaks it up into dry, fruity and sweet. The sake sales are really strong, probably 60 per cent sake and 40 per cent wine.”

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