Thursday, 7 November 2013

Bishamon Japanese - authentic Japanese in Spring Hill

Once I get an idea in my head to check out a restaurant it can become a burning desire to go.  I was hanging out with a mate last weekend and the plan was to head off to Bishamon Japanese restaurant while the girls were at a ghost tour.  As it turned out DD was not so keen on heading to Bishamon after having some less than stellar experiences, so we ended up at Statler & Waldorf (see post here).  But I couldn't shake the idea from my mind and it just wouldn't get out, I had to get over to check out Bishamon.

I'm a big fan of Japanese cuisine and have checked out most of the great Japanese restaurants in Brisbane, but up until recently, I had never heard of Bishamon Japanese restaurant.  The restaurant is located in Spring Hill, which is not a part of Brisbane that I spend a lot of time in, in fact, apart from driving through from time to time, I almost never go there.  

I'd given SC a bit of advance warning during the day that I was wanting to check out Bishamon, so when she got home from another busy day at work I'd already booked in for a 6:30pm booking.  The big question for us was to drive or walk, which would ordinarily be an easy choice but I have a bit of a foot injury at the moment. Throwing caution to the wind, we decided it would be much easier walking up the hill than trying to drag the car out of our underground garage and drive through city traffic, after all it was only 1200 meters away from our front door.

It took us about 15 minutes to arrive at Bishamon Japanese restaurant and I had not been sure of what to expect, would it be a hole in the wall joint or a proper sit down restaurant?  I soon had my answer and it was definitely a sit down restaurant, albeit more on the casual side of dining.  Bishamon is located in a cute little former Queenslander that is split into two dining areas, one that seems just a little bit more formal than the other.  We were not exactly sure how to get in, but we ended up entering through the back door, which was actually a huge bi-fold door that I assume would be open on hot summer nights.

We were one of the first in the restaurant and when we entered, it looked as if the staff were all having a bit of a meeting and were all clumped around the specials board, perhaps they were updating the nightly specials. We were seated in the main dining area, which looked a little more comfortable and overlooked the back kitchen area and also gave a great view of a teppanyaki bar.  The specials board was promptly brought over to our table, along with a menu that could have doubled as a book (a theme which seems consistent in the Japanese restaurants around town).  Before our waiter could get away, SC had promptly ordered an Asahi beer, something she pretty much does at every Japanese restaurant we visit.

The menu at Bishamon is quite comprehensive and has almost too many options to seriously consider, in fact you could easily get 'analysis paralysis' looking over the menu.  Thankfully they've simplified the task of choosing somewhat by starting the menu with the chef's recommendations, which had some awesome looking options.  We ended up choosing a cross selection from the whole menu to try to get as much Japanese goodness as possible in one meal.

As a lovely little touch, we were brought a little amuse bouche of beef and potato, which were fried in little strips and presented in a little bowl.  I really wasn't expecting an amuse bouche in a little Japanese casual dining spot in Spring Hill but it was appreciated.  I liked the flavours of the fried beef and potato but found the texture to be a little slimy.

The first of our shared starters to arrive was the mixed sashimi, which was beautifully plated with a generous amount of raw fish and an assortment of intricately decorated vegetables.  I really loved the carrots that were sliced into delicate looking flowers, the work that must have gone into producing them was mind boggling (or maybe really easy for a master).  One the plate were different cuts of salmon and some thick cuts of tuna, along with a radish that was covered in salmon roe.  The sashimi was extremely fresh and tasted just wonderful, especially when dipped in a little bit of soy sauce for extra saltiness.  SC thought the tuna slices were a bit thick, but I thought they were just perfect, allowing the flavour of the tuna to shine through.

In what is rapidly becoming one of my favourite Japanese dishes the next starter delivered was the wagyu beef tataki, which is thinly sliced pieces of wagyu beef ever so slightly cooked.  The tataki was a favourite of Bishamon as well with the delicate but flavour-packed wagyu making it to the list of chef's recommendations.  There were more of the beautifully presented carrot flowers with this dish and I got quite excited about the amount of wagyu that was on the plate until I realised it was resting atop some more vegetables.  The beef tasted incredible and was elevated somewhat once it was dipped in the soy vinegar sauce.  I loved it and could quite easily have devoured a heap more.

We were feeling a bit greedy when we ordered another of the chef's recommendations.  Instead of just getting the one plate of yaki gyoza, we ordered a plate each, which ended up being a lot of dumplings!  The pan fried pork dumplings were served still in the pan, which was piping hot and provided a great way to keep the gyoza hot, but perhaps a little too hot.  Sometimes when food is too hot, you lose some of the flavour of the ingredients and just keep the heat and this is what happened for me.  SC on the other hand had a better approach to eating the gyoza than me, she took a little bite out of the corner and then placed them on a side plate to cool down, smart.  The gyoza were still great with crispy dough that had a lovely caramelisation that went beautifully with the soy vinegar sauce.

We were feeling pretty full by the time we had finished our starters and still had mains to go, and we knew we would struggle to get through it all when SC's soba tempura arrived.  There was a big bowl of broth with tasty buckwheat noodles that came along with some tempura prawns and vegetables.  The broth was rich, very clear and full of flavour which was enhanced by the earthy flavours from the soba noodles.  I think SC did a great job getting through as much of the noodles as she did but they just got the better of her.

With my main I just went for the assorted tempura, which included vegetables, prawn, cuttlefish and white fish which also came with a bowl of soy and ginger dipping sauce.  The tempura batter was lovely and light and each of the ingredients came with just the lightest coating of tempura so as not to overpower the flavours.  I really enjoyed each of the different ingredients but the two standouts were the cuttlefish, which was just perfectly cooked, and the prawns, which had bags of flavour.  Sometimes when ordering tempura there is an addition of flavoured salt to dip the tempura into, which was not present here and would have really enhanced the flavours and taken the great dish to an amazing dish.

We contemplated dessert for about ten seconds before discounting it all together, with nothing that really jumped out at us although I'm sure if there was something amazing looking we would have found room.

I have a few blogger buddies that love Bishamon and rate it as one of their favourite Japanese restaurants in Brisbane and it's easy to see why.  The food is first rate and there is plenty of it for the price, so the value is really good too.

I've normally only experienced great service in the Japanese restaurants in town and it was no exception at Bishamon, with all of the wait staff being extremely courteous and helpful.  I actually thought that with such a laid back vibe to the place that the service would also be laid back, but they were completely professional. While we were eating our meal, someone had ordered a teppanyaki course so the chef was out cooking up a storm and flipping food all over the place, it was quite a show and really enhanced the vibe of the restaurant.

Once we had paid and left the restaurant, I was surprised to see how many people had snuck into the other dining area, which was filled with Japanese kids (probably students) enjoying an authentic Japanese meal.  That's the best way of describing our meal at Bishamon, it was a very authentic Japanese experience and one that warrants a return visit.

On busy Boundary Street Spring Hill, not an expected spot for Japanese
The sashimi was lovely and fresh and the little radish mouse was cute
It's Teppanyaki time
Lots of students in enjoying an authentic Japanese meal
Exposed brick walls give the dining area a rustic feel
Bishamon Japanese on UrbanspoonBishamon Japanese Restaurant

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