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By Sarah Ward
May 01, 2018

Where to Eat When You're Craving All the Good Food You Ate on Your Trip to Japan

Go to Japan without ever leaving Brisbane.
By Sarah Ward
May 01, 2018


in partnership with

Go to Japan without ever leaving Brisbane.

From Godzilla to Studio Ghibli, Mario Kart street racing to robot restaurants and crazy karaoke bars to capsule hotels, Japan is known for many things. But — in the end — it's really all about the food. You could spend weeks in the country and plan your itinerary solely around its restaurants, street eateries, izakayas and other watering holes and have the trip of a lifetime.

Recently done just that? Can't get the ace memories out of your head — or stop your stomach from grumbling? Brisbane might be a nine-hour flight from Tokyo, but it's overflowing with top Japanese joints that'll trick your tastebuds into thinking they're still on holidays. Some of them are luxe affairs that you might want to save for when you're feeling flush. Others are located in shopping centre food courts.

To help you find them, we've teamed up with American Express. Together we've created the ultimate guide to pretending you're back in Japan — all while giving your Amex Card less of a workout than booking another trip.

Got yourself in another dining situation and need some guidance? Whatever it is, we know a place. Visit The Shortlist and we'll sort you out.

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    There’s a particular noise you hear at any great ramen place — and you’ll hear it in abundance at Taro’s Ramen. Even those trying not to slurp their noodle-filled soup just can’t help it, because that’s what eating this delicious dish is all about. 

    And with Taro’s famous tonkotsu ramen on the menu, that’s totally understandable. It takes two days to make — which is why the stock is super rich — and it comes in standard, fire (with four types of chilli) and red (with a mild house-made chilli sauce) varieties.

    With four venues around the city — in Ascot, on both Edward and Queen Streets in the CBD, and (the newest digs) in South Brisbane — Brissie is alive with the telltale acoustic signs of people enjoying their Japanese soups. 

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    When it comes to ramen, tempura, udon and fresh sashimi and sushi, you can never have too many options. South Brisbane’s Izakana-Ya Okuman knows this — and it’s open twice a day to prove it.

    Whether you drop by for lunch or dinner, its hefty selection of dishes include all the classics. Bento boxes, available in an impressive seven varieties, are a midday favourite. For an evening meal, platters are your friend — they showcase the eatery’s daily fish deliveries. Then, wash it all down with a rice lager or one of ten different sakes.

    Of course, food and beverages are only the first part of the Izakana-Ya Okuman experience. The second, as is the case at any good restaurant, is the atmosphere. The space is styled like a traditional Japanese bar and dining room, complete with kimono-wearing waitresses, ordering via iPads and a very lively vibe.

  • 5

    Delicious, authentic bites to eat. Casual and communal dining. Traditional hospitality. That’s what Izakaya Goku is all about. Located on Boundary Street in West End, its vibe is retro and informal, but the menus are serious. That extends to beverages, too — the place does take its name from the Japanese term for a drinking establishment, after all.

    In terms of sustenance, expect all the staples — and more. There’s everything from okonomiyaki (those savoury pancakes) to packed bento boxes, crab to karaage squid legs and seaweed salad. When it comes to washing it all down, there’s Japanese whisky and a range of cocktails, but choosing from the extensive sake menu is the obvious choice.

  • 4

    With delicious food, impeccable service and a sleek, minimal interior, there’s a lot to love about Sono at Portside. From the moment you remove your shoes to sit at one of the sunken tables by the window, you’ll be immersed in the modern Japanese dining experience. In fact, if it wasn’t for the accompanying view of the Brisbane River, you would forget you were in Australia.

    The a la carte menu can most accurately be described as epic. The vast range of choices includes sashimi and sushi, pork gyoza and main meals such as black cod saikyo yaki (cooked in sweet white miso) and salmon teriyaki.

    But you really want to plan a date with Sono if teppanyaki is your thing. With a large bar located in the centre of the restaurant, you can watch and learn as your food is cooked before your very eyes. It’ll really make you feel like you’re in Tokyo.

  • 3

    With a name like Moga Izakaya & Sushi, this Rosalie joint is bound to have quite a few food and drink options. Upon arrival, you’ll be asked whether you’d like to eat at the sushi train or a la carte. If you choose the former, you’ll be led to a cosy room at the back. The latter leads you to the spacious dining area, complete with trees, shrubbery, paper lanterns and dried blossom branches.

    The menu explains the origin of the restaurant’s moniker, referencing 1920s and 30s Japanese women who adopted western fashion and other cultural imports. It’s an apt title for a place that serves Japanese food with unmistakable international influences and modern tweaks. Must-tries include the duck haloumi takai, anything off the robata grill and the cocoa cheesecake ice cream with red bean. Or, go for the deep-fried camembert katsu, which takes gooey cheese, coats it in Japanese bread crumbs, fries it with zucchini and serves it up with a barbecue dipping sauce on the side.

  • 2

    Quality meat and vegetables, skewered, coated in umami-rich sauces, grilled and landing on your table before you can say kanpai — this tasty (and speedy) yakitori is the order of the day at Tatsu Yakitori Bar. 

    Found in the Chinatown mall, this food-on-a-stick heaven stems from the folks behind Izakana-Ya Okuman, which immediately boosts its cred. The skewers it whips up feature everything from chicken to pork and salmon to beef — and onion, mushroom and zucchini for vegos.

    In addition to the yakitori, which are available in two-skewer or five-skewer sets, you’ll find salads, sashimi, bao, ramen, gyoza and deep-fried dishes such as spicy chicken karaage, soft-shell crab, chicken wings and calamari. Get comfy in an open booth underneath a Japanese-style mural and wash it all down with Aussie and Japanese beers, plum wine, shochu, sake, whisky and a selection of colourful cocktails.

  • 1

    Sometimes, the simplest things are the best. That’s always true about ramen, and it’s definitely true about one of Brisbane’s best ramen joints, which brings slurp-worthy serves of authentic Japanese noodle soups to a heap of Brisbane shopping centres.

    Don’t let the food court locations turn you off — each outlet has its own Japanese vibe, including counter seating. And, if you’re after the full experience, the chain’s newest store in Queen Street Mall is situated in its own downstairs digs.

    Plus, you’ll forget all about the surroundings when your food arrives anyway (promptly, of course). Five char siu–laden options are available, including miso, shio and extra spicy. Served with complimentary takana (pickled mustard leaves), they’re as good as the kinds you’ll find down a random Tokyo alleyway.



As you drink and dine with your American Express, reap all the sweet rewards of being a Card Member. Explore the many ways American Express has your back here.

Header image: Anwyn Howarth.

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