Brisbane Times | 23 Nov 2013 | Tony Harper
When it comes to eating, my two children are like night and day – one fusspot and one who tastes everything and loves most of what he tries. Yakitori was always going to be a risky business for the timid soul – offal, strange flavours, chopsticks and neither mash nor cheese, but regardless I took her on a Dad-date to Bird’s Nest Yakitori & Bar.
The chicken hearts arrived three courses into the affair and I didn’t hide or sugar-coat their identity – pop, chew, swallow, grin … approval. It’s a moment that says something about a nine-year old extending her boundaries and shaking a few shackles, but much more about how approachable and simply delicious the Bird’s Nest food is, be it offal or ordinary.
Yakitori, in a formal sense, translates to grilled chicken. In more common vernacular, it means Japanese street food cooked over charcoal and centred on grilled meats and vegetables on skewers. And it covers all cuts of those meats, including what we would ordinarily bin – offal, tail and skin.
There’s a lot to love about Bird’s Nest, but the most salient is its adherence to the tradition of using every part of the chicken. It’s not a creed they shout, but any aspiring cook will work it out pretty quickly via the menu and the meal – liver (both skewered and disguised as paté), soup extracted from the frame, tail,skin, heart, arteries, wing, thigh, tenderloin and cartilage plus anonymously sourced balls. And if, as they advise, you choose one of their set menus, you play your own unwitting part in justifying the demise of an entire bird.
There is no greater proof of the taste than my daughter’s enthusiasm. The Bird’s Nest propaganda talks of its own “tare” (dipping sauce) and I have no doubt about its quality and just how much it adds to the flavour of the meats. But from the moment the first skewer hit the deck, I was struck by the deep, captivating aromas from the charcoal – the core of the magic.
You can choose your own skewers, salads and other bits, but it’s wise to stick to the set menus. The most lavish affair is the Omakase Course ($55), starting with an amuse, a glass of sake and a bowl of delicious tori gara soup. Then the skewers begin to arrive, 10 in total, including two vegetable (in my case, mushroom and an asparagus with wasabi mayonnaise, inset). The rest are from parts of the chicken, except for one pork. Then there’s a rice course and dessert – a good ginger-infused creme caramel. A seven-skewer set costs $25, or $15 for six vegetarian.
A terrific drinks list is weighted toward Japanese beers and sake, with a small, but very clever, list of wines. Bird’s Nest is relaxed and fun, but it’s cleverly conceived and seems to be running like a well-oiled machine.