The way we eat in Australia is constantly changing. The big trend now is to seek out food that you can share with a group. No longer do we sit with our meal on our own plate, but instead we go out for meals that we can all sample.
Most people are familiar with Chinese style dining, with the food in the centre of the table. But there are many other cuisines that are as good or better for sharing.
Tapas has quickly become the yuppie bar food of Brisbane. This Spanish delight is a combination of hot and cold food served on share platters. While we might translate tapas as snacks or appetisers, many Spanish people will order enough to make up a full meal.
Tapas are everywhere now in Brisbane, from Cantina 817 in Chermside to a range of pubs in the city. One of the best true tapas bars in the Sangria Bar in the Ole restaurant at South Bank.
I am a bit reluctant to put down Korean barbecue on this list, mostly because many of the Korean Barbecue restaurants I have had in Brisbane are not even as good as the worst Korean barbecue that I had in Korea. However there are actually both advantages and disadvantages to the way Korean barbecue is done here in Brisbane.
Korean barbecue is normally a single meat dish, often beef marinated in bulgogi sauce, that is cooked on a barbecue in the centre of the table. You eat the meat by dipping it in bowls of sauce or vinegar and wrapping it in lettuce leaves with kimchi and vegetables.
If you are not Korean and you go into a Korean restaurant in Brisbane they will serve you the meat, but often not provide the lettuce or the bowl of sauce or vinegar. Make sure you ask for these things.
The best thing though about Korean barbecue in Australia is that you can order combination platters where you are given a range of different meats and seafood.
One delicious hint is that you can also cook the kimchi or pickled cabbage on the barbecue. Last time I did that the waiter was shocked and said to me "You are the only Australian I have seen do that."
However they serve it or however you choose to cook and eat your Korean barbecue, it is a fun and social way to both cook and eat a meal together with your friends.
Photo courtesy of Madtonsan
The best places to find good Korean barbecue are on and around Brisbane's Korean Town, on Elizabeth street in the city. While not the highest quality, both Maru and Madtongsan are popular with Korean students studying in Brisbane, so it is a guaranteed that the food is authentic. However walk along Elizabeth Street and around the block and you will find many other Korean restaurants, some even dedicated to barbecue.
Chinese Hot Pot
I have already mentioned Chinese food, but the one Chinese dish you should try is hot pot. There are a number of types of hot pot in China, but the most common is easily available in Australia. You are given a large pot of soup that is boiled in the centre of your table. You usually have a choice between savoury, chili hot or half and half.
You then order a combination of meat, vegetables and other food items that you can add to the pot. Some recommended items include beef or lamb to flavour the pot, green leafy vegetable such as spinach, frozen tofu (freezing the tofu changes the texture), tofu skins if they have them, various mushrooms and potatoes. Seafood is another option if you like it, but not my favourite option.
This is the perfect winter food to share between a large group of people. Highly recommended.
Photo courtesy of The Cube
If you are looking for hotpot restaurant, there are few outside of Sunnybank. The Cube Hot Pot at Sunnybank Plaza is considered one of the best in Brisbane, but there is also the Little Lamb Hot Pot in Runcorn.
With only 3 Ethiopian restaurants in Brisbane, most people will have never tried this wonderful social cuisine, but Ethiopian people have a long and rich history of social eating and this is food that is best shared with a group.
When going to an Ethiopian restaurant try ordering share platters. These will be a combination of meat and vegetable dishes served with fermented injera bread. You tear off a piece of the bread with your right hand and use it to pick up some food and eat it.
Part of the Ethiopian tradition is gursha, where you pick up some food and put it directly in your friends mouth. Maybe you will be uncomfortable doing this, but it is still great food to share. Better yet, you can finish off the meal with some fantastic Ethiopian coffee.
Moorooka is the home of nearly all of Brisbane's African restaurants. Yeshi Buna is the most popular and provides friendly service that brings people back. Made in Africa also does great share platters and it is worth checking out their cake and coffee deals. If you want to try something a little different, then head Cush Sundanese Restaurant which also does similar share platters.
One time I cooked a meal for a Japanese friend. Without thinking she questioned me "But it is only one dish?" With this one innocent question she made me truly understand Japanese food. Yes, you can order big bowls of udon noodles or rice dishes, but true Japanese food is made up of many little dishes.
Next time you visit a Japanese restaurant look at the entree and snack part of the menu first. Even the most basic Japanese restaurant will have plates of fried Japanese dumplings, edamame beans, fried batter chicken, takoyaki (octopus balls), Japanese pancakes, salads and so on.
Combine these with a mixed tempura bowl, a mixed sushi plate, some misho soup and even bowls of rice, and you have a complete Japanese style meal. More Japanese restaurants are adding barbecue to their menu which increases the options even further.
All of this is perfect combined with beers, or in winter, hot sake.
There are lots of choices for sushi in Brisbane. The more options on the menu the better. A favourite for snacks and sushi is Wagaya in the Valley. For something a little more cut price, try Ginga Sushi bar in South Bank. Their sushi is not that good, but they have a great range of other Japanese snacks