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Yoko Dining

A sprawling riverside restaurant with Japanese food and cocktails.
By Sarah Ward
January 09, 2020
By Sarah Ward
January 09, 2020

Since opening late in 2018, Brisbane's Howard Smith Wharves precinct has continued to expand. The spot boasts a riverfront brewery, an overwater bar and a sprawling Greek taverna, as well as an Art Series hotel with a rooftop pool, waterside Betty's Burgersgelato joint and Cantonese restaurant and bar — and since 2020, it has been home to Jonathan Barthelmess' two-level Japanese izakaya.

Yoko sits next door to Barthelmess' first HSW venue Greca and takes inspiration from his time spent in Tokyo, where his fine diner The Apollo is located.

If you've ever visited the Japanese capital's izakaya and music bars, you'll be well prepared for Yoko Dining. Think tunes spun on vinyl, an upbeat vibe and a retro-yet-futuristic feel both in the downstairs restaurant and on Yoko's mezzanine level. The upper space also features a hidden bar and a dining space.

Decor-wise, renowned interior architect George Livissianis has jazzed up the heritage building's original timber framework with bursts of yellow, concrete fixtures and blonde wood, plus an interesting lighting design, all while keeping to a box-style structure.

In the kitchen, Kitak Lee leads the charge, with the head chef already a veteran of Barthelmess's Japanese joint in Sydney, Cho Cho San. A hibachi (a Japanese charcoal grill) sits pride of place in the kitchen, the seafood-heavy menu heroes smoky flavours, and there's a raw bar serving up fresh sashimi, ceviche and seasonal gyoza.

You'll also find soft shell crab temaki, wagyu and chicken karaage among the mains — plus spicy pork udon noodles. As for dessert, choose between black sesame soft serve, mochi, green tea jellies, and a fried bread topped with yuzu curd and kinako (roasted soy bean flour).

As for drinks at Yoko, prepare to sip your way through a series of Japanese-inspired cocktails, ten different types of sake, and a range of umeshu (plum wine), yuzushu (yuzu liqueur) and shochu. Japanese whiskeys, Japanese and Australian beers, and sodas with optional booze are also available — as is wine on tap and in bottles from a 100-strong list.

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