Nearly two weeks since my last post, gee I am getting slack but in my defence I have been back at work and with work means no phone or internet range, not just for 1 or 2 days like Queensland experienced a little over a week ago (you poor things) but for up to two and a half weeks. That means if I don’t have my posts prepped and ready before I head out into oblivion they don’t get posted. Excuses, excuses, yeah I know but I am back in the swing of things now (for a couple of weeks anyway) so without further adieu…
While having lunch with a friend recently they asked me if I had been to the newly opened Japanese restaurant at the five ways in Edge Hill. Strangely enough it was the first I had heard of it at the time and they told me that it had opened where the old Fruit and Veg shop used to be. I do go to Edge Hill quite a lot when I am home from work but usually down the Red Arrow end so I made a point of driving down towards the Pease Street end to have a look for myself. Sure enough there was a new Japanese place opened up called Ok Sushi. A few days later MS and I found ourselves there for a late lunch on a Sunday. We were greeted by a friendly young Japanese man who showed us to a table and bought us out a menu each. He was very friendly and I am assuming it’s either his parents or relatives that own the place. I asked him how long they had been open for and he said only a couple of weeks (this was a couple of weeks ago, obviously).
He brought (not ‘bought’ thanks TW) us out a couple of glasses of water with ice while MS ummed and ahhed over what he wanted, again. I had already chosen the Kaisen Don – Salmon/Tuna with Rice for AU$14.50 with Takoyaki Balls as an Entree for us to share for AU$6.80. I was just hoping that MS didn’t know that it was Octopus inside the balls or he might not eat them. In the end he went with the Tori Karaage Curry for AU$16 because it looked bigger than everything else on the menu and because he is forever searching for a Japanese Curry to emulate an amazing Japanese curry that he had at some mythical ‘Japanese Curry House’ in Melbourne a couple of years ago. Here’s hoping. When he heard me order the Takoyaki Balls he asked me if that was Octopus Balls to which I replied that it wasn’t. The young waiter gave me a strange look to which I again slowly replied that ‘no it definitely wasn’t Octopus’. I think the waiter got the joke and kept his mouth shut but had a funny, complete give away, smirk on his face to which MS was completely aware.
While we were at Ok Sushi there was probably about two other tables occupied and another two groups of people came in for takeaway. It seems quite the popular little place, particularly for a Sunday. We didn’t wait long for entree of Takoyaki to arrive. It came out piping hot with a generous drizzle of Kewpi mayonnaise and those little fishy flakes that are sprinkled over the top (I forget what they are called). Kewpi mayonnaise could be considered a staple in our household since we go through about one squeezy bottle every couple of weeks and after MS saw it drizzled all over the Takoyaki he soon forgot about its eight tentacled content and dug in. Turns out that Octopus Balls aren’t quite so bad after all and he ate more than half of his fair share. They were crunchy on the outside and warm and gooey on the inside, reminding me of the freshly made Takoyaki that I had eaten from a little stall in Osaka. Obviously nothing compares to the experience but for a little shop at the Edge Hill five ways about 10,000 km’s away these were pretty good.
Next up our main meals came out and what was supposed to be a light lunch had pretty much gone out the window. MS’ Tori Karaage Curry came out with the chicken on one plate accompanied by cabbage and salad, a small bowl of rice and a small bowl of curry sauce. MS was happy with the size and said that the pieces of Tori Karaage were actually nice meaty bits of chicken with hardly any fat on them unlike the Karaage pieces they serve you at Sushi Train at Cairns Central which are pretty much just pieces of fat thrown in seasoning and deep-fried. He did however complain that he needed a separate bowl to put some rice, curry and chicken in a little bit at a time. I thought that this was just a completely ridiculous complaint and told him to stop being a big baby and eat his curry. Good old voice of reason. MS enjoyed his Tori Karaage Curry and although I don’t think it was quite as good as his mythical Melbourne one.
My Kaisen Don also had a generous drizzle of Kewpi mayonnaise which for me was probably a little bit too much but for someone like MS wouldn’t have been enough. I am a little bit more traditional with my Japanese food and don’t really like the whole Western take on it. I have been enjoying the delights of Japanese food since I was only small (smaller than I am now) at a little place under the stairs where The Heritage nightclub now is, next door to the Condom Kingdom (I think that’s what it was called). My mum used to take my sister and I there and we would eat Rice Balls to our little hearts content. Does anyone remember that place? Still I did enjoy my Kaisen Don. The generous amount of Salmon and Tuna was fresh and cut in small bite sizes pieces. I think it was ok value for AU$14.50 although the rice underneath was just plain old unseasoned rice not Sushi Rice like I was expecting. That left me a little disappointed with my meal because Sushi Rice is pretty much one of my favourite foods (that and Potato Salad) – some of my tastes are very simple, like anchovies out of a jar for instance.
Last weekend MS and I found ourselves back at Ok Sushi for a second round and while MS ordered the same old thing as last time – the Tori Karaage Curry, while I searched the menu for something a little healthier than I had eaten last time or at least without the addition of rice. In the end I went the Small Mixed Sashimi (AU$12.50) and the Agedashi Tofu (AU$6.80) because I absolutely love raw fish and tofu, so much so that sometimes I forget how healthy it is. Again MS enjoyed his Tori Karaage Curry but it did seem to be a little smaller compared to the last serve that he’d had a few weeks prior. Again, I thought the rice was disappointing and although I wasn’t expecting him to be served Sushi Rice with his Karaage the rice he did get seemed a little… dry perhaps?
My Small Mixed Sashimi seemed to be just that… small. The fish was lovely and fresh with decent, thick pieces but I guess it just looked a little bit bigger in the picture on the menu and for $12.50 I thought they could have chucked at least another piece of Tuna or Salmon in. It made me wish that I hadn’t have been cheap and just opted for the Large Mixed Sashimi for AU$20.50.
My Agedashi Tofu was delicious and quite a large serve for an entree, then again it is only Tofu and cheap as chips. However, I’m no Agedashi Tofu expert and maybe one of my readers (Vagabond) might have to give me her take on it. Is it better than Kanpai?
It’s nice to see a Japanese place like Ok Sushi opened up at the five ways in Edge Hill to go with all the other fare that is available on Collins Avenue. Edge Hill is certainly becoming its own little Cairns foodie destination in its own right with quite a few restaurants and takeaway’s over that side of town now. I think Ok Sushi is going to be hugely popular, being open 7 days till 9pm with both dine in and takeaway and it’s certainly going to take away a little of the business from other restaurants and cafe’s nearby. I am very interested to see how busy they will be of the evening but there will probably be quite a few people coming off their afternoon jog/Red Arrow climb heading in for a quick and healthy feed (hold the Kewpi). The prices are reasonable (particularly the entrees) and the service is good but I did have a couple of hangups with the food and serving sizes. I’m going to stick with the theme and as the name suggests the sushi is just ok at Ok Sushi.
Shop A 139 Collins Avenue, Edge Hill QLD 4870
Ph: (07) 4053 5751
Opening Hours: 7 days 11am – 9pm
I have finally made it back to the land of the living and that of phone and internet range after what seemed like an eternity. Lucky for me now I have a few months off work (because I can) so it won’t be happening again for a little while. Before I went away I went to a few places that I didn’t get a chance to post about before I left. One such place that I wanted to write about is a new little place that I found tucked away on Sheridan Street that by all accounts appears to have been in operation since May but I didn’t stumble across it until late July. Half of you are probably like DER that place is old news but it’s not old news to me alright. Anyway this place that I am talking about is called Happy 4 10 Cafe and Bar. It’s pretty much located right next to the Shooters Bar (or First Choice for all you alco’s) or across the road from Montezuma’s, hidden away behind a yellow gate and down the pathway. I don’t actually remember anything being there in the past, to me it was always an abandoned garden full of weeds with a broken neon sign out the front but it seems that someone has taken over and turned it into a delightful little place to dine.
So after making amends with my good friend RS a few posts ago we decided to have lunch and catch up. She asked me for suggestions and I said there was this new place that I would like to try called Happy 4 10. She claimed that she had already walked past and looked at the menu, apparently it ‘Didn’t do anything for her’ and she said she didn’t want to go there. So I said ‘Fine, where would you like to go?’ To which she responded ‘Why don’t we just meet out the front and go for a walk’. Being the planner that I am this didn’t fly with me so I talked her into going to Happy 4 10 unless she could come up with an alternative. She couldn’t so off we went to Happy 4 10 and she fought be every step of the way (cue eye twitch).
We arrived and met at the front gate underneath the big Happy 4 10 sign. There is a sign below on the pathway with the menu on it so you can walk past and have a look. We walked inside and found a funky, brightly painted, cute as a button and cheap as chips, indoor/outdoor Japanese cafe with a bit of Korean food on the side. All the main meals at Happy 4 10 are AU$10! Winning! Upon arrival the friendly Japanese waitress (Japanese waitresses are always friendly) greeted us and gave us free reign over where to sit since there was no one else there. We chose a spot with a couple of lounges, one of those weird hanging chairs that just don’t seem stable enough to sit in and a coffee table and she bought over some menus. While I ummed and ahhed about just which dish I wanted (if I could have I probably would have ordered them all because they all sounded yummy) RS continued on with her ‘this menu just doesn’t do anything for me’ crap so I decided what I wanted and promptly went up to the counter to order. (Defence: I wasn’t being a bitch, she was just being difficult, you don’t know RS like I do). I even offered to pay for her lunch (big spender I am) but that didn’t quite seem to be good enough so I went ahead with my order of Seafood Udon (AU$10) and a Tofu and Seaweed Salad (AU$10) since I just can’t resist Wakame Seaweed (another food item that I could literally shower in).
RS ordered the Pork Katsu Don which she then cancelled and decided that she would just watch me eat. This confused the hell out of the poor Japanese waitress who ended up stuffing up our order as a result. Assuming that RS was trying to prove a point by not ordering anything I pretended it didn’t phase me and took a seat at the table outside. A couple more people arrived for lunch and sat inside followed by four business type people who took up seats at the table next to ours. We, okay well I, waited about 10 minutes and then the waitress bought out the Pork Katsu Don that RS had ordered, which she then cancelled. This was in no way the waitresses fault and entirely RS’ considering she couldn’t make up her mind as to what she wanted.
Then not long after that my Seafood Udon and Tofu and Seaweed Salad arrived, again confusing the hell out of the guy serving me. He couldn’t figure out why I had two meals and RS had a cup of water. So enough about that crap… Let’s get onto the food. My Seafood Udon had two large whole prawns floating around in it that by all accounts looked local to me (winning), plus half a mussel, some broccoli and a couple of other bits and bobs in there. It was steaming hot, almost too hot to eat but it was delicious.
Next up was my Tofu and Seaweed Salad. I know, I know, I can hear it now. Tofu? Yuck! Well, I happen to love it. When I am feeling very lazy and MS is at work sometimes I just eat Tofu and Ponzu Sauce. It tastes so good and despite all the health warnings about eating Soy I don’t eat it near enough to care. Moving on. The salad was drizzled with that really yummy brownish Japanese dressing that I have no idea what it’s called. I have bought it numerous times at the Asian Store on Grafton Street but the label is in Japanese. Anyone? Despite the obvious presence of Seaweed (wakame oh yeah) and Tofu, there was also fresh diced avocado, slivers of orange and lettuce. I really enjoyed it but couldn’t quite finish it all since my menu taste testing had got the better of me and I couldn’t fit any more in but all that for $20? Still winning.
Despite my obvious difficulties with my lunch date Happy 4 10 is a great little place to grab some lunch or dinner. Again, the fitout is cool and colourful and kinda reminds me of someones backyard but in a good way. I am looking forward to going back there again to try some of the other stuff on the menu. The Karage Chicken Salad sounds good. Wait. Maybe I’ll get the Prawn Tempura. No, I want the Teriyaki Chicken Don but then there is the Stir-fried Spicy Pork and the Salmon Salad. Ah what’s a girl to do?
Happy 4 10 Cafe and Bar
Sheridan St, Cairns QLD 4870
Opening Hours: Mon – Sat 10am – 11pm
I have been meaning/wanting to go to Koh-Ya for some time now and last weekend I finally stepped up to the plate so to speak and gave it a go. Koh-ya is a Yakiniku Japanese BBQ restaurant upstairs at Orchid Plaza that has been there for since 2003. According to www.yakiniku.com.au Yakiniku is an eating style in which fresh, seasoned ingredients such as meat, seafood and vegetables are cooked on a mesh over a direct flame. Each individual booth at Koh-ya has it’s own grill for you to cook your food on. This is exactly the reason why one of my friends declined my invitation to join ST and I for dinner on this particular night. In his own words… ‘Why the hell would I want to pay to cook my own food?’ Each to their own I guess but I wanted to try it out.
At Koh-ya there is an a-la-carte menu as well as two buffet options. There are 44 dishes to choose from on the AU$39.90 buffet menu including dishes like prawns, octopus, mussels, chicken, beef, miso soup, mushrooms and sliced onion. The more expensive buffet option of AU$49.90 includes all these dishes plus a few more such as sashimi, intenstine and tripe. Although both ST and I love sashimi neither of us is keen on the latter so we just went for the AU$39.90 buffet. There are a few ‘Terms and Conditions’ that one needs to be aware of when dining at Koh-ya. These ‘Terms and Conditions’ are listed at the bottom of the menu and state that the buffet is 90 minutes long and this time begins from when you order your first dish. No problem there… 90 minutes is pretty long time to eat for and I think we were only eating for about 40 minutes in total. The second important condition is that any excess uneaten food must be paid for, i.e. if you order a sh*tload of food and don’t eat it all then expect to pay for it when you leave. Having said that, I had a quick look at the food left behind by the table next to us that paid just before us and they had quite a lot of food leftover that they weren’t asked to pay for.
On arriving at Koh-ya the friendly Japanese waitress showed us to our booth where we both ordered the buffet and she promptly lit up our grill to allow it to preheat while we waited for our first orders to arrive. She then brought us each a dipping sauce that was like a light soy sauce accompanied with a wedge of lemon and some chilli powder (I’m pretty sure that’s what it was).
On arriving ST was most excited to see one of her all-time favourite dishes on the buffet menu – Yukke. According to Wikipedia Yukke is made from raw minced beef seasoned with various spices or sauces, usually with a raw egg cracked over the top. The most tender part of the beef is used, the fat is removed and the beef is julienned and then mixed with the seasoning. The seasoning is soy sauce, sugar, salt, sesame oil and a few other bits and bobs. ST ordered a Yukke for herself and decided that I had to have one too. I was a little dubious about eating raw beef. I have absolutely no qualms about eating raw seafood but meat is a little different. I gave it a go, breaking my egg yolk with my spoon and mixing it into the red mince. Once I got over the texture of the raw mince it was delicious, and I mean REALLY good. In fact I could go another bowl right now just thinking about it! The meat was almost sweet from the various seasoning that had been mixed into it and unfortunately I got into it so quickly I didn’t even get a picture of it so you will just have to go and have one for yourself. We ordered about 10 dishes all up including Shake Gohan (Salmon Rice), prawns, squid, octopus, mussels and beef rib.
We ordered about 3 plates of beef rib between us just because it was so juicy and tender.
ST ordered a bowl of edamame to nibble on whilst we were waiting for our food to cook on the grill. I love those yummy little pods of salty goodness and they are also good for fidgeters like me since they keep your hands busy.
Each item comes out on a small serving plate with 2 or 3 pieces each, depending on what you order. If you like a particular item you can just keep ordering more and it’s better this way because you don’t have hardly any waste. The food at Koh-ya is pretty basic, not at all fancy however it’s pretty healthy (as long as you control your portion size) and it’s tasty too. I’m no butcher but the meat that they serve you is really lean and good quality. The wait staff are also very friendly and helpful albeit a little hard to understand. Disappointingly, as is the case all too often, the seafood at Koh-ya is imported which wasn’t a surprise to me. You need to take a bit of a systematic approach to cooking your food otherwise you sit there and wait too long and that’s no good for an impatient person like me (that’s what people tell me anyway). The best way to do it is to have something on the grill while you are eating and have something on order as well, that way you always have something to eat and everything flows nicely. It’s a good and bad thing that you have to cook your own food depending on which way you look at it. I thought it was kind of fun and and you can just chat with your company while you work your little BBQ and tongs. The best thing about doing the cooking at Koh-ya is that you don’t have to clean up the mess afterwards.
Koh-Ya Japanese BBQ Restaurant
Orchid Plaza Shop 50 12-14 Lake St, Cairns QLD 4870
Ph: (07) 4041 6006
If you are looking for a cheap Japanese lunch in town during the week and don’t really feel like the usual Sushi Train then check out Kanpai (means ‘cheers’ in Japanese) on Shields St. They have a $12.90 Eco Lunch special available Monday to Friday with over 10 items on the menu to choose from, including sushi, sashimi and teriyaki chicken.
LL and I walked through the restaurant and took a seat in the alfresco dining area at the rear so we could enjoy the beautiful weather that Cairns has been putting on lately, and also because all the booths inside were full. The waiter poured us a glass of water. I ordered the sushi platter while LL ordered the Teriyaki Don with sushi on the side. We were informed by the waiter that because the restaurant was busy it would take a little bit more time for the sushi platter to be prepared. I asked ‘How long?’ and was told ‘about 20 minutes’. We decided that was ok as we weren’t in a hurry and it was good to be forewarned. However, considering that the lunch specials are only during the week and city workers on their lunch break probably don’t want to be waiting around too long maybe Kanpai should employ some more sushi chefs. LL’s meal came out about 10 minutes before mine did and even though I was told that I was going to have to wait it would have been better if they had bought the meals out together, since LL has little to no manners he had finished his meal before mine had even arrived.
Having said that when mine finally did arrive with many apologies from the waiter it was delicious, good value for money and also a good size meal for lunchtime.
Again I was met with apologies from the waitress who I gave my $12.90 to at the counter as we left. Kanpai has good, cheap food and friendly service, just don’t go there for lunch on a Friday and expect a quick meal.
64 Shields St, Cairns QLD 4870
Open: Lunch 11.30 – 2pm (Wed-Fri), Dinner 5pm – 11pm (Tues-Sun)
Ph: (07) 4041 6084
One of Cairns’ hidden gems is the authentic and super cute Japanese noodle restaurant on Spence Street, Ganbaranba Noodle Colosseum. It’s a little hole in the wall place that is almost too easy to walk straight past and when you ask somene if they have been to the Noodle Colosseum and they haven’t they look at you like you have gone mad. I took SF and MF to Ganbaranba one Tuesday night and when we arrived there was the typical fare of Japanese and locals ‘in the know’. When you step inside you almost feel like you are in Japan. All the staff here are very friendly and when you walk in you are greeted in unison with the usual cheery ‘Irasshaimase’ by the chefs behind the noodle bar while the equally cheery waitress greets you and asks you where you would like to sit. We took our seats and browsed over the menu’s while our waitress poured us some glasses of ice cold Oolong tea.
To start we ordered some of the very tasty gyoza that Ganbaranba followers rave about. They are made fresh daily too! The gyoza came out quickly and steaming hot but since we ordered two lots of five (AU$4 for 5) we had to decide who got the extra one. I got it. We all commented on how good they were and SF reckoned she could eat 80 of them she liked them that much.
While waiting for your mains you can help yourself to the Homemade Mustard Leaf Pickle, Pickled Ginger and Pickled Bean Sprouts next to the noodle bar. I think these are condiments that are actually supposed to go in your noodles but I can’t help but eat them while I am waiting for my noodles since they are pretty damn tasty.
The noodles can be ordered three different ways: soft, medium or hard, which assumedly refers to the cooking times. I always order them medium but to tell you the truth I probably wouldn’t know the difference either way. Opting for something different and a bit more adventurous to my usual choice I ordered the Yusen described as Sio Ramen in Seafood and Vegetable Based Soup with Milk and Cheese Flavour with House Made Salmon Flakes (AU$11.80) from the Season Special menu.
Milk and cheese flavours in a bowl of Asian noodles, well any old noodles for that matter, was a bit different but like I said I was being adventurous. The salmon flakes went well with the dish and I ordered an extra spoon of chilli for AU$0.50 to add to my bowl of noodles.
MW ordered the Ikemen which is Tonkotsu with a hint of Delicious Crushed Garlic, Special Garlic Oil, Egg and BBQ Pork (AU$11.80). He seemed to be a bit concerned about it since the only noodles that he eats are the Cup of Noodle kind, we can’t all be adventurous with eating out like me but I get the feeling he may have preferred macca’s.
SF ordered the Kurobama which is Tonkotsu with Special Garlic Oil infused for over two hours (AU$8.90) with extra noodles on the side. After a sideways glance from me she wondered if she should have done that as the noodle bowls are pretty filling with the broth. She could barely eat her extra noodles so lucky MW had brought his appetite with him. We all enjoyed our noodles and with SF declaring she would definitely be back.
Ganbaranba Noodle Colosseum is a great place to dine when you are looking for somewhere quaint and unassuming. The noodles are cheap (all bowls under AU$12), the staff are friendly, the service is good and the noodles are tasty. What more could you want? If you haven’t been down to the Noodle Colosseum on Spence St yet I suggest you get your butt down there quick smart to see what you are missing out on.
Ganbaranba Noodle Colosseum
12-20 Spence St, Cairns
Ph: (07) 4031 2522
Opening Hours: Everyday from 11.30am till 10pm
My friends and I thought we would make the most of the weather that Cairns has been having so we went for a bit of waterfront atmosphere with our lunch on Saturday. We ended up at the Pier at M Yogo, formerly Mature Yogo (I much prefer the new name). They have a lunch special for $20 which includes garlic bread, a glass of beer, wine or softdrink or instead soup of the day and a main. Pretty damn good value I think! I decided on the soup of the day which was Cauliflower Soup instead of the drink while my friends opted for the drink. Boy were they bummed when my soup came out and they were sitting there sipping on their soft drinks 🙂 First we had the garlic bread and then my soup came out. The soup was rich and creamy and just the right size. Then came our mains… I ordered Sauteed Prawns with Balsamic Sauce and Potato Salad (left). I was a bit sad because I was truly intent on ordering the Slow Cooked Duck in Red Wine and Seasonal Vegetables but the waiter informed us that it wasn’t on the menu that day so I was severely disappointed about that but I soldiered on. Moving right along, Sophie ordered the Tiger Prawn, Marinated Salmon and Squid on a bed of Green Salad with a fresh Tomato Dressing and Luke ordered Grilled Salad and Squid Provencal Sauce with Crush Potato and Mesculin Lettuce. We were all pretty satisfied with our dishes and the presentation was fantastic. So after a bit of a food photo session we dug in and it was delicious. The prawns were cooked perfectly (as you would expect prawns to be at a restaurant) but my favourite was the Balsamic Sauce around the edge. It was truly delicious, fantastic value, awesome atmosphere and I think the pics speak for themselves!
Shop G9 Ground Floor “Pier Shopping”
Pier Point Road, Cairns QLD 4870
Ph: (07) 4051 0522
Opening Hours: Open 7 days; Lunch: 11.30am – 2.00pm, Dinner: from 5.30pm
Last night I went to dinner at one of my old favourites in the city… Japanese restaurant Ocha Cha in Palm Court on Lake St. This place has been here for at least 10 years because I used to go to it with my family every Friday night. I took my friend LL who had never been before and didn’t even know that it existed. Since Blue Sky Brewery moved in down below it, Ocha Cha is quite tucked away and only those in the know would even know that its up there. As usual the girl at the counter (seems to change every few months) knows very little or no English at all but you can still get by with a bit of pointing and the good old ‘smile and nod’. It was actually quite empty for a Tuesday night since I regularly find it packed to the brim during the week with Japanese as well as locals.
I do have to say it is one of the most authentic Japanese places in town offering Bento Boxes and Noodles at very reasonable prices and if you have a local’s discount card like I do then they are even more reasonable. I went with my old favourite Chicken Teriyaki because it really is very good here while LL went for the Deep Fried Pork Fillet. With both of the dishes you get tofu, miso, rice and your main but I always get the Vinaigrette Seaweed on the side because its just so damn tasty! And you can’t beat the Barley Tea there also served in those little blue plastic cups and then you can take a seat on the elevated floor area around the tables and wait for your Bento Box to arrive. Don’t forget your second bowl of rice is free too! I can never help myself with that second bowl…