Kimono is a new 'sushi-train' style restaurant that's opened on Melbourne Street, not far from QPAC and the gallery precinct.
In my experience, the multitude of Japanese 'train' restaurants across Brisbane range from quite bad to quite good. The quite bad ones have me wondering how people could make Japanese dining so awful, as I watch limp sushi circulate endlessly under ugly fluorescent lighting. The quite good ones offer quick, tasty food at a reasonable price, and allow diners to easily customise their meals according to their appetite and budget.
When I saw the signs for Kimono go up a couple of months ago, I was curious to find out which camp it fell into. The proprietors had certainly made an effort to go up-market with the décor, opting for a dark-panelled exterior and an elegant interior that features wood, marble and soft downlights. But would the food live up to its surroundings?
To find out, four of us went to dine at Kimono before going to an event at South Bank one Saturday night recently. Our event started at 7pm and Kimono opened at 6pm, giving us about 40 minutes to eat and then walk the 10 minutes to South Bank and make our show in good time.
We reached Kimono on the dot of six, and were seated in a comfortable booth, down from another party of four. We were hungry and ready to eat, but there weren't many dishes on the train yet. Clearly, the chefs were just getting going with their knives and bamboo rollers behind the counter. The restaurant was also quite hot, suggesting that the air-conditioner had also only just come on.
The dishes that did go past us looked nicely made, but many were decorated with copious quantities of Japanese mayonnaise. Nobody in our party is a fan of this modern addition to sushi, so we were stumped for a second.
Luckily, one bright spark among us thought of asking the chefs to prepare some custom-made sushi for our group. We checked the menu, then hailed a waitress and told her what dishes we wanted, specifying that the sushi rolls should be mayonnaise-free. She smiled and nodded, then whisked our docket off to the chefs.
Our first dishes appeared within 10 minutes. A plate of edamame (delicate salted soybeans in the pod) was fresh and lovely, and as good as any that I've had in more formal Japanese restaurants. Our gyoza (pork and ginger dumplings) were fine, tasting like the ones you seem to get in most of Brisbane's Japanese restaurants nowadays -- that is to say, bought readymade rather than prepared on the premises.
The sushi rolls themselves were good -- crisp, fresh nori on the outside; light, fresh rice within; and good-quality seafood, meat and vegetarian ingredients. We tried seaweed ships, softshell crab, salmon, prawn tempura, inari (tofu pouches), chicken katsu, and more. All were made according to our specifications, and kept coming quickly. We also had Japanese tea, which was fine but not wonderful, made on teabags rather than leaves.
We finished our meal in half an hour, and headed for the cash register. Like other train restaurants, Kimono charges per plate, with different-coloured plates costing different amounts. We'd eaten 17 plates of varying prices, totalling around $75 for the four of us. We paid up, then strolled to QPAC, making our show in good time.
So, what's my verdict on Kimono? I think it's safe to say that it definitely falls into the 'quite good' category. The décor is a cut above what you'd normally find in establishments of this type, the staff were consistently friendly and polite, and our food was fine for the price. Kimono also offers other interesting dishes that we didn't have time to try, including salads, udon and soba items, and a-la-carte meals like beef tataki and chicken karage.
We were in and out of Kimono within 40 minutes, which makes it a handy choice if you're looking for a quick meal near QPAC. Just be aware that the 6pm opening time on Saturdays and Sundays means that you may have to order off the menu (rather than grabbing off the train) if you want to get the sushi of your choice quickly.
Oh my god! I love sushi. I would love to go there if I ever visited Brisbane. Kimono's a good name for a sushi restaurant. Your review makes it sound lovely. It sounds like really good service. From the pictures included the restaurant interior looks really nice.
By David - senior reviewer Thursday, 27th of October @ 11:48 am