My cousin Peggy, visiting Brisbane from Malaysia, asked me late last week if I have any good eating places to recommend. Off the top of my head, all I could think of was Thai Wi Rat in the Valley, where I used to go often for grilled cat fish (Pla Dook Yang) and while they still had it on the menu, cat fish floss salad (Pla Dook Fu).
Then I remembered Pho Hoang Gia on the corner of Wickham St and Kemp Place, where I went for savoury pancakes filled with seafood and served with raw vegetables (Banh Xeo) and had some of the best beef stew (Bo Kho) and I realised that I have to, just have to, compile a list so as to do justice to all the fabulous eating places I’ve frequented.
Okay, this list is going to come across as biased since most of these eating places (apart from those in the Valley) are either in the 4101 (where I lived for 3 years) or in Sunnybank (where I shopped most weekends), but I wouldn’t be true to my palate if I excluded them.
Price range is indicated by $ for cheap, $$ moderate and $$$ for please bring more cash. In the order of cuisine, here they are:
1) Malaya Corner – good Hainanese Chicken Rice, fried radish cake (Char Kueh Kak), herbal pork soup (Bah Kut Teh) and complimentary soup (which you can buy for $2 a bowl, if like me, you like soup). $
2) Dapur Dahlia – best satay in whole of Brisbane and possibly Australia. They run a stall at the West End Riverside market on Saturdays but if you need your fix of authentic Malay food on other days, you can check out their take away shop in Upper Mount Gravatt. $$
3) Singapore Corner – despite the name, they have very good Malaysian food. $
A picture of me in Malaya Corner having Chicken Rice and $2 soup.
1) Parkland – for yum cha and dinner. You can find gigantic tanks filled with sea critters right out the front. $$
2) Landmark – also for yum cha and dinner. The “sister shop” of Parkland, this is the old favourite of yum cha devotees. $$
3) The shop next to KFC in Sunnybank for Szechuan food. $
4) Little Hong Kong for roast meats, congee and noodles. I also like their complimentary Chinese tea which washes away the oil very well and eases that heavy feeling at the end of a meal. $
5) Bamboo Basket for dumplings, buns and Shanghainese favourites made-to-order. $$
1) Bombay Dhaba – excellent South Indian thali every Sunday, good North Indian food at all other times. $$
2) Riverside Malaysian Restaurant – fantastic goat curry and South Indian fare. $$
A picture of me and Amanda at Riverside Malaysian restaurant in Highgate Hill.
A picture of Masala Chaat at Bombay Dhaba in Brisbane.
1) Madtongsan 1 & 2 – good one-bowl specials and dumplings. Madtongsan 2 has a loyalty card that gives you free dumplings whenever you visit, or so it appeared to me. $
2) Hong Depot – beautifully marbled cuts of wagyu for the BBQ, lunch specials from $10. $$
3) The shop on the first floor of Diana Plaza in the Gabba – specials like Korean steak tartare (Beef Yukke) for 50% less if dining between 5 and 6 pm, Monday to Friday. $$
4) O-Bal-tan – if you like your meats cut into finger-sized chunks, as opposed to sliced. $$
1) Sono – everything is delicious and service is exemplary, however be prepared to pay up to $100 per head for dinner, especially if having sake with food. $$$
2) Sakura – Amanda loves the steak tartare (known in Japanese as Beef Yukhoe), HRH and I like the sashimi and the raw squid with fermented soy beans (Ika Nato). $$$
3) Hakataya Ramen – with 2 outlets in Sunnybank and 1 on the Gold Coast, their ramen is number 1 in all of Brisbane. Be sure to go early to avoid long queues. $
A picture of Ika Natto at Sakura Restaurant in Brisbane.
1) Kuan Yin in the Valley – it’s a no-frills diner but the Taiwanese-style vegetarian food is great. $
2) Tea Master in the Valley – also a no-frills, offering Malaysian-style vegetarian food. $
3) The Forest Cafe and Bar – wholesome vegan cuisine, the highlight of which for me is their cheesecake. Biting into it, you won’t know it’s stuffed full of tofu. $
4) SOL Breads – they make yummy soups in winter and have quiches and salads the whole year round. $
Is it real or is it fake? A picture of vegetarian chicken rice at Tea Master in Fortitude Valley.
1) Viet Hoa – I used to go there so often they even made me porridge when I was sick. They even had a pet name for me, since they couldn’t pronounce or remember Estella – “Malai Mui”. All I can say is their wanton soup is the best in Brisbane, as is the pho, and best of all, they don’t use MSG in their cooking. $
2) Pho Hoang Gia – for Viet pancakes (Banh Xeo) and beef stew (Bo Kho). $
3) Trang Restaurant – pho comes in baby size, regular, large and X-large. X large is enough for 2 adults to share. $
4) Kim Thanh Hot Bread – not theoretically a restaurant, this bakery sells mouth-watering pork and salad rolls. If you are vego, you can ask them to leave out the pork and the pate. $
A picture of Banh Xeo from Pho Hoang Gia in Fortitude Valley.
1) Makanan Indonesia – the beef rendang cooked by the owner’s sister melts in the mouth, and the rice sets are good value, offering you a sample of some of their dishes. I am particularly fond of their sambal gila; made with chilli padi, it is so hot it’ll burn the roof off your mouth. $$
2) This one is in Upper Mount Gravatt, whose name I’ve now forgotten, but served real good fried cat fish with sambal (Pecel Lele). I was recommended there by a Malay friend. $$
A picture of the vegetarian set at Makanan Indonesia in Brisbane.
Fish & Chips
1) Swampdog – fish is locally caught and the chips are cooked only in canola oil, which makes them the best in Brisbane, however be prepared to pay around $90 for 4. $$$
2) George’s Seafood – now this is the place to go to if you are on a budget. A serve of fish and chips with some calamari will set you back at the most $10. $
Breakfast Fry Ups
1) Roundabout Cafe – opens from very early until midday, serves are huge. $$
2) Five Sisters Cafe – tucked away at the back of a brick house converted into an office on Melbourne St, apart from fry-ups, they make great coffee and shortbread biscuits too. $$
1) Pasta-al-dente – they’ve been making pasta for over 30 years and it shows in the food they put out. Amanda’s favourite are the spirals with cheeseballs and mine is the Vegetarian lasagne. They also make and sell fresh pasta and sauces on-site. $
A picture of Meat Lasagne at Pasta Al Dente in South Brisbane.
1) C’est Bon – this award-winning place requires an advance reservation, so if you are keen to try it out, remember to call first. Amanda loves the garlic snails. $$$
1) Granada Cafe Tapas Bar – offers delightful little South American morsels to try but go on Tuesday nights, when they have paella, and you’ll thank me. $$$
2) The Sardine Tin – fabulous ambience at night and also great tapas. The standout dish for me has to be their grilled sardines. $$
3) Red and White Peruvian Restaurant – their marinated raw-fish (Cebiche Pescado) is a must-try. Service is good, size of mains is on the small side. $$
A picture of seafood paella at Granada Tapas Bar in South Brisbane.
1) Aria – I went here after HRH got his FRACS results. Celebrity chef Matt Moran’s baby, Aria offers quality fine dining coupled with five-star service. $$$
2) Alchemy – my vegetarian friends weren’t particularly impressed by their mains, or the level of service (they forgot about our request for more water), but I thought the food was well-presented enough for an establishment of their standing. $$$
A picture of me and my fellow surgeons’ wives at Aria in Brisbane last May.
Now you probably know why I have to be on a diet half the time. I’ve eaten at many, many, many more places, but these are the ones that stick out in my mind. Bon Apetit!
My personal philosophy: Love Food, Love Life. A picture of signboard I saw in a hawker centre in Penang, Malaysia.