Sadly too many weeks have fallen off the calendar since my last foray into the Brisbane suburban food scene. With the shadow of Christmas fast approaching the window of pre-festive season gluttony was rapidly closing. The team behind the Sunnybank adventure had once again put their heads together to direct the sequel. Fingers crossed it turns out to be a Godfather II rather than Crocodile Dundee In Los Angeles. Who in their right mind would have greenlit another Paul Hogan movie some twenty years after his prime?
Our supporting cast was the same as the last season’s blockbuster. Hopefully this one won’t have the surprise twist of us all requiring tests following the Sunnybank COVID-19 scare.
The first suburb on this peregrination of Brisbane was Brisbane City. And realistically if you are going to write about a Brisbane suburb starting with “B” it is better to one of the dark blue suburbs on the Monopoly Board. Nobody wants to hear about a $15 luke warm sausage roll at the Brisbane Airport (yes, it is an actual suburb!) Brisbane City as a destination meant I needed to make sense of the parking regulations as a cheap carpark in the epicentre of the city as rare as a double-yolker egg. Having previously fallen foul of the rules once before, I was keen to spend $90 on food as opposed to paying a parking fine which increases the drinks tab at the Brisbane City Council Christmas Party. King George Square has a special parking rate of $5 flat on weekends which I thought was too good to be true but warranted closer inspection. Here’s hoping that the threat of sweltering temperatures send all and sundry to the Coasts, increasing my chance of a the prize. My prayers were answered on Level F of the carpark. I was getting quite concerned that we were going to hit bedrock if we had to progress any further through the alphabet. As it was, I’m going to need the aid of a decompression chamber just to get back to the street level.
Our first stop is a newish Korean BBQ place in Adelaide Street. This city block is dominated by Korean culture, much like the leaderboard at an LPGA women’s golf tournament. My last experience of Korean BBQ was in Mooloolaba where I was sitting near a couple on what looked to be their first or second date. Him cooking the meat whilst attempting to protect his lady’s best dress from splattering fat. Ladies, rayon can make an impression on a first date but it should be left on the hanger at home when naked flames are in close proximity. He was trying his dandiest but from what I witnessed that night, ironically nothing douses the flames of a romantic dinner than BBQ. Lucky for me romance wasn’t on the menu, replaced by grilled meats. The prementioned drawbacks that relate to Korean BBQ just add to the social aspect and theatre.
Though it had been a while between that night on the Sunshine Coast and now but I was surprised to see that exhaust fans installed. Hovering slightly above the cooking surface it looked like a scene from Mario Bros 3.
This game changing innovation could have saved that budding romance on that fateful Sunshine Coast night. The concept is fairly straight forward, order your favourite meats which are cut thinly so that the cooking time is minimised, dip it into the sauce provided all whilst trying to avoid second degree burns and accidental property damage. The little grills omit a tremendous amount of heat – an already hot day just got hotter. The fattier cuts of meat were challenging as the fat would drip onto the fire, creating a firefront that required backburning to keep under control.
Some of my friends were experienced campaigners in this subtle art – a bowl of ice was requested early on in the piece. I thought this was to keep one of the small children busy and cool, but as we learnt in Boy Scouts, a strategically placed icecube can soothe a savage fire, saving a piece of burning meat from turning into pure carbon. The “ice cube” method works a lot better than the other option (which my fellow diners employed) – the “panic and throw your glass of water on the fire method”. The resulting ash, dirty looks and embarrassment will hang around nearly as long as the newly created plume of smoke.
After a while we developed a crude production line which seemed to be feeding our tribe. Food was disappearing quicker than the hair on our singed forearms. The quality of meats on offer here was of superior quality than other Korean BBQ’s I have come across, meaning even the secondary/tertiary cuts such didn’t need an hour of chewing to get it down. Wagyu was available as was ribs, an assortment of chicken, duck, seafood and vegetables. Vegetarians looks away now, vegans please stop reading (you’ve been warned). Asians have a knack of utilising the entire animal so the menu does have a section devoted to “tubes” and “organs” but with the volume of choice you can sidestep that kind of gear. To quote my butcher, “If you are eating that stuff it’s probably time to cut up another one.”
If I was handing out awards I would have to split it into three – best cooked, best uncooked and best side (or supporting actor/actress). The best cooked – the ox tongue. Many of you are rolling your eyes now thinking that the smoke and heat is messing with my brain. Cut super thin and marinated it was really tasty.
But the star of the day was a beef tartare (wagyu yukke). Small diced up pieces of uncooked meat topped with a raw egg. What could possibly go wrong with uncooked eggs and meat? It came highly recommended by my friend and worst case scenario I would drop a few kilos before I get home. But being the reckless thrill seeker I am, I dived in and then returned for another couple of mouthfuls to reinforce by risk taking aura. The deep-fried octopus was a hit as was the chicken karaage (deep fried chicken). There was no time to savour these as my attention turned to the hissing sheet of beef which was cut like a king size doonah cover which was now fully alight. Maneuvering the meat with the tongs through the flames whilst the other hand was pressing down on the grill so it didn’t ignite the table required constant concentration. At that moment I was part brain surgeon, part caveman.
The “Hachi” in the restaurant’s name may be related to the Japanese phrase “Hara Hachi Bu” which translates to English as “belly 80 percent full”. I did my best to adhere to that philosophy as everybody knows you have to leave room for dessert. Enjoyable food and not once did I have to stop, drop and roll. A success in any language. Onto the other end of the laneway for a dessert break.
When ordering dessert with eight people one needs a system. Without a system it is most likely that more dishes will be ordered than mouths to feed. Our group fell into the later category though not all was lost, it was a hot day and the icecream cold so I took
one two three for the team. I acted as a dessert underwriter, finding a home for the unclaimed sweet treats. The Asian deserts such as the parfaits and mixed bowls are always a surprising blend. Icecream, beans, cornflakes, rice balls, cream, herbs and even a tuile of sweet potato somehow manage to coexist in delicious harmony?
My hosts had gotten word that the Taiwanese place at Sunnybank we visited previously was trying some sparkly new menu items. I would eat here every day if the logistics were more favourable. My only caveat was the fried tofu that made such an impression had to reappear on the table (it’s a sequel after all). The place was packed courtesy of a birthday so we had pre-booked and pre-ordered. A stroke of genius. The food came out before I had time to get comfortable in the chair. I didn’t get a copy of the new menu so these captions are very loosely translated (if correct at all?)
Apparently sweet and sour dishes are served in traditional Asian restaurants too. I thought this was just conjured up to get people through the door of Australian eateries throughout the 1980s. My earliest memories of Asian food is sweet and sour pork in a neon pink sauce and the beloved deep fried icecream. The difference between those memories and this was the crispiness of the meat. Some things never change though, the sauce is always a tad sweet but you could eat this sauce without the need of dark sunglasses.
Again the deep fried tofu and I hit it off. Like any old friendship there was no formalities, just a familiar smile and content to be in each other’s company. This tofu wasn’t the firm type which can be tough as tyre tread, this was the creamy variety. Once covered in this salty egg mixture is on par with any fried meat on the planet. Just as good as I remembered.
Just enough room for a dessert to punctuate the night. A Thai place nearby had a blackboard out the front tempting people with their special sticky rice. No need for me to read any further, I was sold. The only question is should I have it with mango or durian? Durian is a polarising fruit – fans of it treat it as an offering from the gods while other can’t get past the smell which part public toilet, part leaky air conditioner. Divisive in the same way that Vegemite cannot get traction overseas. I stepped out on a limb and ordered the durian, now to see what all the fuss is about. If I couldn’t eat it, it was a message from the food gods that maybe I have already had my fill.
It came out with a bowl of icecream, a small bottle of coconut milk and a pile of black sticky rice. All eyes were focused on me as I tentatively had my initiation. A slippery texture that reminded me a bit of a custard apple. The smell wasn’t as offensive as I was expecting but let’s just say the air wasn’t all pot pourri and primroses. I ran my index finger across the plate a couple of times afterwards so it couldn’t have been too bad. Of our group of four, the durian won unanmiously 3-1. Italian food is often touted as food that keeps you full for weeks afterwards – this sticky rice dish could hold its own in that debate.
Breakfast the next morning we went to the popular Kenmore cafe, Method To The Madness. It is a Shakespeare themed cafe. The walls are adorned with quotes from his more popular works and there were pictures of the old bard everywhere you looked. Unlike his plays I was just hoping for no drama, just a good solid hearty breakfast.
Breakfast was thoroughly enjoyable (for those playing at home I chose the baked eggs) but I wish I was more familiar with Shakespeare’s works. I would have loved to rattle off an excerpt coupled with some melodramatic overacting when the waitress asked “how is the food this morning?” I had nothing to give other than a reassuring smile.
And that the end of the eating adventures for the weekend. The sequel is rarely as good as the original and it’s hard to pick a winner between this one and the first day in Sunnybank. Let’s say it was Shrek 2, rated by some as marginally better while others won’t have a bar of it. Whatever your opinion, let’s hope this turns into a franchise with a few more instalments down the track.
Lunch: Yahkiniku Hachi, Brisbane City (Korean BBQ)
Afternoon Dessert: Koto Sanpo, Brisbane City (Dessert Bar)
Dinner: Yuan Bao Taiwanese Cuisine Restaurant, Sunnybank (Taiwanese)
Dessert: The Phat Pantry, Sunnybank (Thai)
Breakfast: Method To The Madness, Kenmore (Cafe)