Japanese is a cuisine that unfortunately often gets bastardised upon import to western countries, with unnecessary ingredients added and flavours changed in an attempt to appeal to the supposedly “uneducated” Western palate.
This is unfortunate, as many will either often come away feeling it’s not especially enjoyable, or will end up with a warped view of what to expect from this cuisine. None of that is a concern at South Brisbane’s Bird Nest Restaurant, which specialises in yakitori skewers and takes the simple concept of “chicken on a stick” to in entirely new levels. Greeted by the appropriately exceptional Japanese customer service upon walking in the door, it’s apparent that attempts have been made to keep the experience as truly “Japanese” as possible; there’s none of the awkward attempts at “fusion” style trappings here. Casual-upmarket would be the best way to describe the setting, so if you’re after a quality meal in Brisbane that avoids any pretentiousness then this is an excellent choice.
Yakitori, which literally means “grilled bird” in Japanese would be nothing if things didn’t start well with the chicken itself, and here every offering is both expertly-grilled and wonderfully tender, while the smoke and flavour infusions used here enhance the inherently neutral flavour of the meat. All of the staples of yakitori meats are utilised – almost none of the chicken goes to waste – as more standard sections as the thighs and breasts go hand in hand with other innards like chicken liver, hearts and even arteries for the adventurous diner. This is a restaurant where it pays to venture outside your comfort zone, as the organs are prepared in a way so that their distinctive textures are not unpleasant on the palate. While the pure-skewer oriented menu might sound monotonous, the diversity of the flavours and dippings as well as the range of enjoyable sides help break up one bite from the next.
It’s apparent that attempts have been made to keep the experience as truly “Japanese” as possible; there’s none of the awkward attempts at “fusion” style trappings here.
First-timers may want to opt for the Omakase (chef’s selection) that consists of a 7-course of skewers, sake, vegetable skewers, rice and dessert for an ideal cross-section of samplings for an overall reasonable price that WILL leave you full despite initial appearances; this is one of the best value banquet-style offerings in Brisbane and great for experiencing as a group. Given the high quality, the food at Bird’s Nest is very well priced in general and makes it possible to dine here on a relative budget compared to some of the other high end restaurants on this list. Beverage offerings at Bird’s Nest deviate greatly from your typical wine lists at European establishments, and while the Sake is enjoyable (there’s a dedicated Sake sommelier to lend a hand to the uninitiated), it’s the Japanese-style plum wine that steals the show and goes just as well with dessert as it does the savoury meals.
Rounding out the pluses of the restaurant are the wonderful fit-out and communal atmosphere that the restaurant creates; there’s a large central table rimmed with seating in order to get everyone involved, and while it tends towards the noisier end of the dining spectrum this is all part of the fun. Optional window seats are also available that give views of the head chef and the kitchen in action, and it’s interesting to see the techniques and sheer volume of chicken that is prepared in a relatively short amount of time. Bird’s Nest is more than just a novelty fad – as someone who spent several years living in Japan, this is up there with the best “true” Japanese restaurants experienced, all for a price that won’t leave your wallet in tears.
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