Sunday, 22 June 2014

Sono Portside - tastes of Japanese

I love Japanese cuisine but probably don't indulge as often as I'd like, so when I was offered the opportunity to get in as a guest and check out the six course tasting menu, I accepted with a gleam in my eye.  My last memory of Sono Portside was an extremely positive one (see post here) and I was more than ready to come back for a return visit. Sono at Portside is a little outside of my normal stomping grounds, so I had to jump in the car and scoot over after work.  I was running a bit late but luckily, the traffic was pretty light and I made it on time.

If you've not heard of Sono, then it's possible you are new to Brisbane or possibly living under a rock!  Located over at Portside, Sono has been one of the few authentic Japanese fine dining experiences in Brisbane, which has been recognised by achieving a chefs hat by the Australian Good Food Guide.  It's often thought of as a special occasion dining spot because of it's beautiful and timeless fit out and incredible food, but as I'd find out, its also a regular spot for many locals.

We started off the night in the bar area where I met my dining companions for the night, most of which were foodies I'd not met face to face yet (but had through the social sphere).  We spent a little while getting to know each other over a few drinks while we waited for our full compliment to arrive and once our last guest arrived, we were shown to our table.  On my previous visit to Sono, it had just been a standard table for two, but I was excited to learn that we'd be dining in one of the private rooms which was a traditional low table. It also meant that we had to get our shoes off, so there was a mad scramble while we all bent over (mostly elegantly) and prepared for entry.

Once we were seated, we were greeted by one of the most competent wait staff I've come across in a long time, who gave us a run down of the meal and explained about the accompanying wines and sake.  I'll admit that I switched off a little bit here as I wouldn't be drinking, but I could see that the rest of the table was completely engaged at that point.  I definitely switched on once we started talking about the food, especially when Sono Managing Director William Liu came in to explain the Sono concept. His vision was to get only the best Japanese chef and wait staff in to provide a completely authentic Japanese experience.  Everything about Sono was designed to transport you to Japan, including the fresh ingredients used in every course.

We started our tasting course with an appetiser plate that included a fresh oyster with lime sauce, a soft shell crab karaage with shiso salsa and seared wagyu with sesame sauce.  The platter was delivered on a plate that was shaped like a shell and looked lovely and fresh.  I kicked off with my oyster, which was plump and very creamy.  The lime sauce and salmon roe provided some acidity and saltiness to the oyster and provided wonderful balance.  My next target was the soft shell crab, which was quite sweet.  I'm always amazed when I eat soft shell crab, expecting the texture to be crunchier but then surprised by how soft the texture is.  Lastly, I munched on the seared wagyu with sesame which was devoured quickly.  Yum.

William was back for our next course to explain a little about the traditional approach to sashimi, which is less based on red fleshed fish and more focussed on white.  In Japan, the white fish is appreciated much more due to it's freshness and the nuance of the flavours.  Our next course was of tuna and salmon sashimi with a snapper carpaccio with shallots, sesame seeds and garlic vinaigrette.  Without doubt, the star of this course was the beautifully presented and stunning flavour from the snapper carpaccio.  It was just perfectly balanced and fresh!

Our next course of fresh crab meat croquette and scampi spring roll looked wonderful on the plate, largely due to the presentation which included a scampi head (not for eating).  The delicate flavours of the crab meat really shone through with the croquette, and while I'm not a big fan of the texture of croquettes in general, I loved the flavour.  For me, the scampi spring roll was the highlight of this dish, the light tempura batter covering the sweet scampi adding nice texture to the sweet and delicious flesh.

No meal at a Japanese restaurant would be complete without some sushi rolls and Sono delivered some beautiful versions.  The prawn tempura sushi roll was my favourite but the cucumber sushi roll and the seared salmon belly sushi were equally delightful.  I loved the presentation on the plate, which was refined and very inviting.

It was time for the main course and there were three options to choose from; NSW duck breast with a teriyaki orange sauce, pan fried barramundi with garlic and lemon soy or my choice of the night, the Kobe Wagyu strip-loin MB7 with garlic soy sauce.  Kobe wagyu is a real treat, so it was impossible for me to pass on the opportunity to sample the rich meaty flavours of the sirloin.  The simple presentation belied the strong flavours from the beef and the wonderful garlic soy sauce.  There was an interesting addition to the plate, which was some cooked bamboo, which was something I'd never eaten before.  It certainly was a discussion point at the table as we all tried to guess what it was.

As stunning as the meal had been to date, the best was saved to last.  We were treated with an amazing dessert of gateau au chocolate with vanilla bean ice cream, chocolate covered flakes and hot chocolate pouring sauce.  Probably not what you would consider traditional Japanese, this french inspired dessert was both visually stunning but completely scrumptious.  The chocolate gateau had this amazing texture that just melted in the mouth and once combined with the vanilla ice cream, sent shivers of pleasure down my spine. Just delicious.

The last time I'd been to Sono, I'd made some predictable choices that meant that I just ate what I normally like to eat.  The best thing about this trip and checking out the tasting menu, is that I sampled some of the Sono dishes that I'd normally avoid.  That's the great thing about tasting menus, the chance to sample some food that you might ordinarily skip over (and usually miss out on something special).

I'd had a brilliant night of scintillating conversation that sometimes strayed from the typical topics that you'd get at a foodie dinner.  There was an interesting mix of guests, which for me made the evening even more enjoyable.

Sono at Portside has been around for many years now and is a favourite for many Brisbane residents.  While it's often considered a special occasion restaurant, we were told a story by William about one of their regular diners, a customer who had been to Sono over 200 times in three years.  What an amazing fact and something that clearly marks Sono as the type of restaurant where you can go for a casual meal as well as that special occasion.

**I was a guest of Sono Portside for this meal

Our dining room with tatami mats and very low table
The room next door was much neater :)
The open tepenyaki kitchen 
FoodMeUpScotty with George 

Sono Japanese Restaurant on UrbanspoonSono Portside

1 comment:

  1. Cool- this place looks interesting. Lovely photos !


Thanks very much for your comment, I really love and appreciate feedback and your thoughts


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...