Have the fish balls, try the miso cod and don’t miss the beef ishiyake or the seafood tempura batter platter – these were the recommendations that flowed in when I tweeted and announced on Facebook that a dinner at Sono was my night’s highlight!
I am a long term lover of Japanese food but my partner, K2 is not so sure about raw fish and strange sea creatures so it promised to be an interesting evening.
Stretching along the front of the river on the first floor of the Portside building at Hamilton, Sono takes advantage of its Brisbane River views and echoes them with tranquil water fountains and bamboo accents. It’s a place that encourages you to leave your worries behind but take your appetite when you step through the doors.
We removed our shoes and climbed into a private room for dinner where we sat Japanese style. Our legs were under the table but the extremely courteous wait staff had to kneel around the table to serve. (note to self – pants, leggings or a long dress are the best attire for this type of dining). If you are seeking a more Western experience, there are normal tables and chairs in other parts of the restaurant.
Sono Director William Liu explained the intricacies of the Japanese décor and the restaurant fit out which definitely evokes tranquil images of Japan.
Opened in 2007, Sono Portside is a sister restaurant to Sono in Queen Street Mall. The kitchen is filled with a team of highly specialised chefs who turn out exquisite meals that are both a visual and gastronomic pleasure.
We settled quickly on the Sono Tasting Course ($85 per person (optional wine match $45 per person). This is a six course meal featuring some of Sono’s finest dishes (including the famous fish balls), with optional wine matching to complement each dish. Just to liven things up – I went for the sake matching and K2 chose the wine.
Our first course was an Appetizer Platter - a fresh oyster with lime sauce, soft shell crab karaage with shiso salsa, and seared wagyu with citrus soy sauce and chilli grated radish. (wine match: Pelorus by Cloudy Bay Sparkling N/V or Ranman Reiryo Sake). The flavour combination here was a typical sour Japanese flavour contrasting with the tender wagu and the real flavour of the sea in the soft shell crab.
Sono buys its seafood mostly direct from Melbourne, ordering in the morning for an afternoon delivery. It’s an expensive process but worth it says William.
This was followed by exquisitely fresh Tuna, salmon sashimi and snapper with shallot, sesame seeds, garlic vinaigrette (wine match: Mitchell Watervale Riesling 2009)
Next was a Fresh crab meat croquette and scampi spring roll (wine match: Giant Steps Sexton Chardonnay 2008) This was the famous crab balls and I know why they were recommended - a surprisingly creamy bite hidden behind the crusty exterior. A pleasure to eat and I particularly loved the wine match with this course.
And a Prawn tempura sushi roll, fish tempura roll and seared salmon belly sushi drizzled with mayonnaise, sea salt and avocado (wine match: Sancerre Dom. Christian Salmon AC 2008 or Echigo Toji No Sato Sake)
Alas, I forgot to photograph a very special addition to this course - a taste of sea urchin. As William described it - an personal flavour not suited to all but specially sourced by the chef from Tasmania and carefully prepared in Sono's kitchen. I found it an interesting flavour but K2, well he was happy to hand half of his over to me. Win/win I say!
For our mains K2 chose the South Queensland Kobe Cuisine wagyu striploin MB6 steak (match with Ferngrove King Malbec 2007). This arrived looking very impressive on a plate that William told us cost about $100 each – glad I’m not in charge of washing up. I went for the duck breast teriyaki orange sauce (match with Mt Difficulty ‘Roaring Meg’ Pinot Noir 2009) - just loved the layer of fat under the duck skin.
William popped into our room to point out we were having miso soup with our main course, rather than as a starter as often experienced in other restaurants. William assured us Japanese tradition definitely dictated that miso should be with the main. Just stir with your chop sticks and drink.
A wonderful platter arrived for dessert with the chef’s selection of Sono’s most popular deserts (wine match: Choya Umeshu – Plum wine) There was a very light strawberry mousse, a crispy caramelised plait of puff pastry on ice cream and a little ball of dark chocolate pleasure.
Disclaimer: Eat, drink and be Kerry was the guest of Sono for this dinner.
Bottom line: I've had several meals at Sono and never been disappointed. It's a wonderful slice of Japan in Australia and deserves to be experienced. Also some of the best sushi I've ever tasted! Find it opposite the Dendy Theatre.
Level 1, Building 1, Portside Wharf, 37 Hercules Road, Hamilton. p +61 7 3268 6655