Whether hot or cold, clean or dirty, hearty or sweet, Japanese is unique in its ability to fit every occasion with the all-encompassing power to keep things fresh, vibrant, and interesting without straying from tradition. How does it do this? No one knows, but the word ‘sorcery’ has been passed around a bit.
In a city where food trends are always on the in and out, and grown adults get schooled by six-year-olds on the correct pronunciation of ‘phō’, we thought it was time to brush up on Brisbane’s best Japanese restaurants. If you're after a hefty bowl of ramen, you'll find the city's best here
, but for all out Japanese feasts, here's where to go.
That ancient dilemma of how to give the finesse and subtlety of Japanese cuisine an edgy, sexed up vibe has been forever solved by the crew at hôntô. With moody, minimalist interiors with long communal tables and a sleek whiskey bar to drink at while you wait for a seat, this dimly lit Valley spot is the place to tuck into Wagyu beef tartare with kimchi crisps and Moreton Bay bug katsu sandos with salted cabbage. This is Japanese—but not like you’ve ever seen it before.
When the hankerings hit, sometimes it takes more than a sushi train to quell the impending anarchy. Enter Izakana-ya Okuman and their transcendent sushi situation: platter on platters of hand-rolled ricey seaweed medallions, each one a bite-sized love letter to your insides.
We’re calling it: Hosokawa
is one of the most underrated Japanese restaurants in Brisbane. Fresh fish is the star of the show here, and the sushi rolls and nigiri coming out of the kitchen are some of the best we’ve had the pleasure of tasting. If you’re a sushi fan, get your self to Racecourse Road for some of this action.
is renowned for its teppanyaki, but sushi platters are also a fantastic option for large groups. A traditional Japanese restaurant in Brisbane's north, Sono diners can get their tatami-on and dine at traditional Japanese tables, or at Western-style seating if you’re feeling unadverturous. A section of the sushi menu is dedicated to Aburi sushi—a method of flame searing meats that’s insanely tasty.
The uninitiated would likely baulk at the prospect of a big old bowl of tofu for dinner. If this sounds like you, check your priorities because the first step in self-discovery is Mizu’s
signature agedashi tofu. Pad out the rest of your feasting with some cheeky sushi and a couple of bottles of plum wine and paradise comes early.
Our Japanese correspondent on the corporate strip, Saké’s
flair derives from meshing food and art together in eccentric and mind-boggling plates that are almost too good to eat. We always manage to scoff them anyway but not before spending a good four or five awestruck minutes baffling at a pile of food that looks better than we do. Eyes full, our stomachs reap the rewards of the most exquisite Japanese cuisine to hit the riverbank.
Bird’s Nest Yakitori
West End, Fortitude Valley and Toowong
At first glance, yakitori seems pretty straightforward, but few places that purport to offer yakitori actually lock it down. Purists require proper yakitori to be grilled on a charcoal fire (take a walk, George Foreman) and this is where Bird’s Nest
winkles out its point of difference in a minefield of posers. They proffer authentic yakitori, slamming fries (bonus) and all the sake that you can handle responsibly.
From teppanyaki, teriyaki and tempura to katsu, hot pot and sukiyaki, Bishamon Japanese
is so suited to your fancies it’s like the Allen key of Brisbane Japanese. The eggplant slathered in sweet miso is an elegant declaration of how best to eat your vegetables, and the gluten free menu means you can bring your GF posse without fear of any sneaky contaminated soy ruining the damn mood.
With a warm, wooden exterior, Izakaya Goku affords you all the comfort and privacy you need to make the most of a long-ass boozy lunch. Start out with some okonomiyaki (savoury pancakes), quickly foray into the chicken katsu and then step it up with some yuzu pepper steak guaranteed to blow your trumpet. Don’t forget their expansive range of sakes and, of course, Sapporo on tap.
It’s hailed as Brisbane’s trove of Japanese food, there is simply no end to the wonders and joys that await you within the pages of Moga's menu. Sashimi, katsu, yakitori, nigiri, tempura—you name it, they’ve got it in spades making it absolutely brilliant for long lunches and dinners with the squad.
Tucked away in the leafy streets of Teneriffe, Hikari is relatively new to the scene, but already winning over tastebuds everywhere with lunchtime dishes like donburi bowls and okonomi yakisoba—savoury pancakes filled with soba noodles and your choice of meat. It's their izakaya-style dinner menu you'll really want to head in for though, with a range of share plates perfect for knocking back with a Japanese beer.
Yuzu & Co
New Farm & Milton
Yuzu & Co is a local go-to for fresh, contemporary Japanese dining. Though replete with classic dishes like sushi rolls, gyoza and ramen, Yuzu & Co. also cranks up the creativity with stellar options like popcorn prawns and a neat selection of Japanese burgers—everyone knows to win the heart of Brisbanites is with a good burg.
If you’re looking for a hidden Japanese gem, Ku-O is an oriental umbrella adorned venue that serves up traditional dishes in Trafalga Lane. You’ll find everything from single servings of sashimi to flavourful hotpots. The locals keep this one a pretty tight secret, but the word's slowly getting out there.
Eat your way through a different international cuisine and check out Brisbane's best Italian restaurants here.
Image credit: Ariana Gillrie (Sake), Judit Losh (Bird's Nest)