I’ve always considered sake to be one of those drinks that should be treated with extreme caution. Potentially lethal for the uninitiated. So I eye the three small glasses of sake placed in front of me at Brisbane’s Sono Japanese Restaurant with some trepidation. Will we be sozzled before the starters arrive?
From our window table, my companion (known to some as “The Goddess”) and I gaze out onto the blinding white hulk of the cruise ship Pacific Dawn, in port for the day and completely spoiling our river view.
Three tiny glasses of sake are placed on the table on a small curved lacquered tray. The glasses are different colours – blue, green and clear – and each holds a different style of sake. I could tell you the different names, but it meant nothing to me and would probably mean nothing to you, so I’ll just say that they were all very palatable. We sip and smile.
We are embarking on a very long lunch. The menu is long so we opt for a six course tasting menu featuring some of Sono’s finest dishes. With wine matching for each course. Plus the sake.
On the other side of the restaurant, beyond the walkway that separates it from the sunken tables we’re seated at and beyond the normal Western-style tables, is a sushi bar and a teppanyaki bar. (A tip: The Goddess recommends the teppanyaki as a good “first date” spot – one she’s tried herself – because you don’t have to look at your date, and the chef’s performance gives you something to talk about.)
The appetisers start rolling out in rapid succession: a small platter with an oyster in lime sauce, soft shell crab karaage with shiso salsa and seared wagyu with citrus soy sauce and chilli grated radish; then tuna and salmon sashimi and snapper carpaccio, with shallots, sesame seads and garlic vinaigrette; fresh crab croquettes and a scampi spring roll; and prawn and fish tempura sushi rolls, and seared salmon belly sushi.
We beg for a rest. More sipping. Then the mains. There’s a choice of three. I opt for the duck breast teriyaki, but really want to try the Goddess’s wagyu strip loin with garlic soy jus…and she’s willing to share. On the side is a bowl of miso soup.
After two hours, Pacific Dawn’s passengers are all aboard and the tug is ready to help the ship do a three-point turn in the river, as everyone – including us and all the other diners at the windows – waves an enthusiastic goodbye.
Now, we have our view. Just in time for dessert. The Goddess goes for the gateau….but I can’t resist the profiteroles, if only because they are shaped as swans. But I can’t eat more than one, so the Goddess helps out.
After four hours, we are sated. It has all been delicious and it’s a struggle to get out of the sunken seats (at least with any degree of elegance). Several of the matched wines have stayed at the half-full stage, which seems a pity.
We look around. The restaurant is empty, except for the smiling, attentive staff. We’re not surprised; it’s a sure thing that everyone’s gone home for a well-deserved afternoon nap. What a good idea.