Thursday, 30 October 2014

Nikuya - Fortitude Valley

My major life passion, without a doubt, is Japanese food. When I heard of a new Japanese establishment in the trendy new area in Fortitude Valley, near Emporium several weeks ago, I knew this was my calling ヾ( ・`⌓´・)ノ゙.

Nikuya is situated on McLachlan Street, next to Flaming Olive, another place I really need to try ヾ(@^▽^@)ノ.

The environment was a very beautiful mix of modern and Japanese aspects.

We started off with drinks, which was refreshingly cool after the effort it took us to find the place.

On every table is three sets of sauce, a sesame dressing and salad dressing, both of which are for salads, depending on personal preference, as well as a tonkotsu sauce, because Nikuya's signature dish is Tonkotsu (fried pork chop)

Knowing what the signature dish was, I could not request ordering it, despite the fact that it cost over $30 for what was essentially a pork chop. After ordering, a waitress came around with a bowl of sesame, and explained that the Tonkotsu sauce was DIY with ground sesame. Very enjoyable indeed.

Unlike other Japanese places, all three dishes that we ordered came at once. I was very impressed by this.

The first thing I tried was the Tonkotsu Loin. This is Nikuya's signature dish, so I had high expectations. I was not disappointed. The panko was super crispy, the skin wasnt oily, the meat was juicy and lightly marinated ヾ(@°▽°@)ノ. It went really well with my DIY sauce. The salad on the side was also very refreshing and light. It complemented the Tonkotsu very well.

The next thing I tried was the Kinoko Udon. Being a meat lover, I was very skeptical about this dish, but my friend ordered it, so I went along with it. It came with 3 types of mushrooms:
  • White button mushrooms,
  • Enoki mushrooms
  • Oyster Mushrooms
The broth was infused wonderfully with the mushroomy tastes. In terms of Udon, I have also been able to make out two commercial types, a round lower grade one which is round and of worse quality, and a square high grade one, which is actually square in shape. Nikuya used the higher quality one. Despite my predispositions, I really enjoyed the Kinoko Udonヽ(^。^)丿.

Lastly, I had some of the Unagi Don. I loved it. The eel was nicely grilled, and soft. It was fresh and didnt have any fishy smell usually associated to unfresh seafood O(≧∇≦)O. The sauce was just the right amount, not too much as to make the rice soggy and not too little as to leave a lot of unflavoured rice. 

I had a wonderful time at Nikuya. Although it was a bit expensive, I believe it may have taken up the spot of best Japanese food in Brisbane. A friend asked me how I'd compare it to Sono. To be honest, I really like SONO too, but with the quality at Nikuya, I'd potentially say they are on equal standing. Definitely another favourite to add to my list!

Price Range: $25 - $50 per person

Taste: 9/10
Value: 7/10
Service: 9/10
Environment: 9/10

Nikuya Japanese on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Dumpling Republic - Brisbane CBD

Sometime last month, Dumpling Republic opened in the Wintergarden. After finding out that it had opened on level one, a number of us were wondering what had closed down to free up the space. 

After taking a long hard look, we found it nestled in between Hanaichi and Wagamama. From memory there was nothing there previously?! Apparently they opened up more commercial area.

Upon entering, I could see a large glass window with many chefs busily making dumplings. Promising indeed. Being a self proclaimed dumpling connoisseur, I was ready to be blown away.

Being the first of my party to arrive, I was promptly seated and provided menus and an order form.

The setting was really nice, bright, clean and vibrant. They even had a number of signs on the walls illustrating the amount of detail and effort they put into every dumpling. I was quite surprised that the restaurant wasnt even half full at 12.30 (peak lunch time) on a Tuesday.  

We placed our order on the order form and were provided table water.

The first thing that came was the slow poached beef. It was supposed to be served as an appetizing cold cut, but it was mildly warm when it came to us. The meat was tender, and the flavour was well infused.

After quite a significant wait (we did all need to rush back to work after all...), the steamed pork dumplings (xiao long bao) arrived. My excitement faded quite quickly after it was set down. I believe the dumplings might have been over cooked. The skin was mushy and gluggy, whilst the soup tasted quite watered down. The meat was quite gingery, but coarse and overcooked. Compared to places like New Shanghai, Taste Gallery and my all time favourite, Din Tai Fung, Dumpling Republic definitely has room for improvement

My next photo was blurred by the steam rising from the piping hot wagyu beef and onion dumplings

While I held great expectations for the steamed pork dumplings, I was uncertain what to expect from the Wagyu Beef Onion Dumplings. Again, it was a bit overcooked like the XLB, but it didn't have the soup and it was more chewy. I note that I couldn't really taste the onion either.

Each serving of dumplings comes with a small dish of ginger for patrons to make their own dumpling sauce combination, from the soy sauce, vinegar and chili oil available on each table.

The last to arrive for us was the pan fried chicken and leek. The base was mildly crispy, and the shape of the pan fried dumplings were rounder than the usual long ones you see in other places.

When leaving, I was particularly impressed by the owner's flexibility in accepting split bills per table. In the lunch hour rush, it is quite hard to find a sit down restaurant that doesnt enforce a one bill per table policy.

In summary Dumpling Republic has a lot of improvements to make, but it definitely has the potential to be something great.

Price Range: $15 - $25 per person

Taste: 4/10
Value: 4/10
Service: 8/10
Environment: 8/10

Dumpling Republic on Urbanspoon

Monday, 27 October 2014

Hanwoori Korean BBQ - Brisbane CBD

With my spring being cut abruptly short by summer, I realised that I hadn't completely had my fix of Korean BBQ before the heat absolutely sets in. Ergo, mad rush to Hanwoori for dinner after work.

Hanwoori, and its neighbour Shabu House, are situated upstairs of 70 Mary Street. The setting is quite elegant, and beautiful. While the restaurant was rather large, I was quite surprised that it was almost at capacity for a Monday night! Lucky I booked earlier.

Upon being seated, our waiter explained to us that it operated on a self serve basis, where we gather food and grill it on our table. 

They have a range of cooked foods, for those who need more variety than just meat.

There is also a large selection of seafoods, meats and marinated meats to grill on your tabletop.

Some of the already pre cooked foods on offer include spring rolls, beef stew, fried pork, spicy chicken, chicken wings kim chi, etc. I found the beef stew to be very nice and comforting. The Kim Chi was also very authentic.

Being a Korean store, I had expected something like Miso Soup, or perhaps Chicken and Ginseng Soup. What they had tonight was actually piping hot creamy pumpkin soup. I was very surprised indeed.

Additionally, salads were also on a DIY basis. I like this a lot more than ordering a salad and having to pick out pieces that I dont like.

Usually, when you go to a Korean BBQ, the beef they offer is usually merely marinated beef slices. This was definitely not the case at Hanwoori. We had slabs of steak!

We also had marinated pork chops, beef ribs.

Prawns... Octopus... Calamari...

Sauces were also on a DIY basis, for the meats that weren't already marinated. This is my personal mixture of bbq sauce, sesame oil and garlic.

For those who aren't so keen on meats, they also have bbq vegetables such as pumpkin and zucchini.

While I enjoyed my time at Hanwoori, I think there could have been a larger variety of options, like Shabu House next door, and I would also have liked it more if the meats were more marinated, rather than having to rely on sauces after cooking. Other than that, I was definitely impressed with the quality of meat offered. Service was also good, with the waiters smiling a lot and being very friendly.

Price Range: $30 per person

Taste: 7/10
Value: 7/10
Service: 7/10
Environment: 8/10

Hanwoori on Urbanspoon