Sometimes all that gets you through a morning at work is the anticipation of a good lunch, and so it was when I stepped through the doors of Shunsai Japanese restaurant in East Brisbane recently. Paperwork, deadlines and office politics momentarily fell away as I entered this spartan but soothing 18-seater space to peruse a menu that was pure magic.
Shunsai combines the Japanese words for colour and seasons. The restaurant space itself is all blonde wood, pale patterned shoji paper, and ikebana (Japanese flower arrangements). This provided a fittingly neutral backdrop to a sensory and gustatory experience that lifted me out of my workday worries as I revelled in the delicious heat of wasabi, the toe-curling pleasure of a umami-rich mushroom, the briny crunch of a deep-fried prawn head, and green apple sorbet melting on the tongue.
The lunch menu offers a range of options to suit all tastes and budgets. Upmarket bentos from the kaiseki bento ($27) to the wagyu bento ($65) are tempting all-in-one meals which typically include soup, pickled vegetables, sashimi, salad, and simmered, fried or grilled dishes. I chose the sashimi set meal ($43) which included a range of bite-sized appetizers as well as a platter of varied sashimi, steamed rice, pipi soup, pickled vegetables and dessert.
Dinner at Shunsai is more a degustation-style affair with set menus starting with the mini kaiseki course ($80) through to the blockbuster Shun course ($160) which includes entrée and soup of the day, assorted sashimi, grilled abalone steak, salad, wagyu beef, pumpkin manju, kushi katsu, assorted sushi and dessert. One of Shunsai's points of pride is that the master chef's menu changes monthly to take advantage of what's fresh and in season.