If it doesn’t rain, it pours. I hadn’t eaten Japanese for the longest time and now here I am within the space of a few months with a new set of Japanese lunch sized adventures for under $10.
‘If they ask you if you want extra chilli, say no’ were Justin’s tweeted words of advice. Of course, this piqued my interest and I was keen to visit Ichiban Yakitori and try their ‘Momofuku style’ savoury steamed buns. So, when I finally got to make a rare visit into the CBD at lunch time, I aimed straight for Gresham Lane behind the NAB building, to try them for myself.
This little lane was once a passage beside a couple of buildings but in these modern retro times, it’s been converted to a ‘laneway’. Brisbane doesn’t have many traditional lanes but that hasn’t stopped developers creating them alongside new buildings. I think my Nanna would have referred to them as breezeways rather than laneways but, no matter.
With Justin’s words ringing in my ears I ordered a brace of spicy pork belly buns. ‘With chilli?’ ‘No thanks.’ The buns were freshly prepared so whilst I waited, I had a bit of a look at the menu. They had Yakitori Bento Boxes and all sorts of snacky Yakitori Skewers and for the CBD, they seemed incredibly good value. With my buns delivered ($5 for 1, $9 for 2), it was back to the meeting room to sample them.
The pair of pillowy steamed buns were split and filled with a slice of sticky pork belly in a spicy glaze, with slices of shallot, lightly pickled cucumber strips and hoisin sauce. A classic combo that’s always on the Bun Mobile menu too. There’s no neat or delicate way to eat these buns. Just tuck in with your hands and make sure you have plenty of serviettes handy. Two buns was more than enough for lunch. I did add a dollop of Sriracha to the take away container but it was unnecessary as they were quite spicy enough for me, though you may be bolder. Delicious!
88 Creek St – Gresham Lane
(enter from Creek, Queen or Adelaide Sts)
Brisbane Qld 4000
Nonbei Sake Bar
Dinner in the Chinatown Mall is a hectic affair. So many people hoping to grab a quick meal on their Friday night pub crawl, large groups celebrating birthdays and big queues for favourite restaurants. It’s not really a place you can wander along and have a meal on the spur of the moment. But at lunch time the tone is completely different. It’s dog eat dog as every restaurant sets out to lure you in with a $10 lunch time special. After looking at the myriad of options, I went for Nonbei Sake Bar as they had the best sounding (and looking) meal on offer for the price.
Walking off busy Ann St, the restaurant was quiet with just a few diners. After ordering, I took a good look around. The restaurant is divided into a sake bar, and Korean style BBQ section. As I have mentioned in other posts, it seems that in Brisbane at least, many of the smaller ‘Japanese’ restaurants are Korean owned and are a fusion of the two cultures. In the corner was the obligatory karaoke machine, no doubt pressed into service during long sake drinking sessions. If only the walls could talk! No karaoke at lunch time though.
My bento box arrived quickly and I couldn’t have been happier. Yes, there was the obligatory rice, hot dish and salad but the extras were what really made the meal. I opted for the Korean bulgogi rather than Japanese fare, as my main. Other small bites included two creamy, slightly warmed cubes of agedashi tofu; a small spring roll; wedges of cool, sweet Japanese omelette and some tempura vegetables. With a few pickles thrown in, it wasn’t bad for ten bucks.
Nonbei is next door to a backpacker’s and whilst I was there a couple walked in for lunch. I heard a pair with strong Germanic accents talking though the menu and listened as they ticked off the mains they’d tried to date. They obviously visited on a regular basis. If that’s not a ringing endorsement of good value, I don’t know what is.
Nonbei Sake Bar
624 Ann St (top of the Mall)
Fortitude Valley Qld 4006