I can't think of an occasion that doesn't suit Japanese bar food and beer. Birthday celebration? Yup. Romantic dinner? Yup. Catchup with friends? Perfect. Weekday lunch? Why not. It's the style of food that anyone anywhere can be in the mood for, any time of the week. Japanese food can be as light or filling as you want it to be and you can match with beer or iced tea if you want to keep the night quiet, or elevate things with some sake or whiskey. It's all so versatile.
Some of my favourite and funnest places to eat in Brisbane include Wagaya and Moga, both of which have 'izakaya' in their title. Coincidence? I think not. In Japanese, izakaya refers to an informal drinking establishment that also serves food, primarily to accompany the drinks. That's basically all I want in a food venue, ever so it makes sense that places I enjoy eating/drinking at are all called izakayas. I was over the moon when I heard one had opened in West End.
Izakaya Goku is located on Boundary Street, right next to Little Greek Taverna. We made a booking at 8:30pm last Friday night and got there a bit late but they still had a table for us. It's quite a small establishment with limited dining space so if you have your heart set on eating there, I highly recommend you make a booking. The restaurant was quite full the whole time we were there, up till the very end.
Service was a bit disjointed right from the start. We waited for menus and ended up Googling the menu online so that we could at least order drinks right away. Finally, I chased someone up and we got our menus. The food order was received not long after that.
Sapporo and sake salty dog
Our drinks came out fairly promptly, a Sapporo beer for Marc and a sake salty dog for myself. I never tried grapefruit juice and sake before but it was very drinkable. I couldn't detect any alcohol at all but the next day, I realised I must have been at least a bit tipsy because I forgot whole sections of the night.
Mixed sashimi platter
Food took a bit longer to start coming out. The first dish that arrived was the sashimi platter, which kept us going for a little while. This contained usual sashimi favourites such as salmon, tuna and scallop. I don't often see oysters included with sashimi but these were actually quite good. I was expecting Marc to donate his to me since he doesn't even like oyster but he snatched it up and devoured it before I had a chance to ask.
It was another wait before the hot dishes started arriving at our table. Once they started though, they arrived at a steady pace (bar a hiccup at the end... more on that later). Our favourite item of the night was the spicy karaage chicken bombs. We didn't know what 'bomb' meant but post-taste I suggest it's an allusion to the heat and flavour. The chicken nuggets have the perfect karaage-style fine crumb coating that make them crunchy and delicious. We loved the drizzle of spicy mayo on top that made each bite so moreish. A bucket of these and ice cold Sapporo would make for a very merry evening indeed.
Next came our seafood okonomiyaki. This was presented as one thick, loaded, medium-sized pancake. It wasn't cut into portions so Marc and I hacked away with our forks to get edible morsels.
The batter was a bit squidgy and wet but contrary to how that sounds, it was actually quite tasty. There was a good amount of seafood content and the usual toppings of mayonnaise, sweet soy and benito flakes brought it all together.
After we finished our okonomiyaki we hit a bit of a wall. Nothing arrived for a long time. I was starting to fall asleep at the table and was eager to leave. Marc and I don't like being pushy customers so we waited as long as we could before I couldn't contain myself any longer and I chased up our remaining orders. This was a seared salmon sushi and the beef sirloin skewers. We were given 2 glasses of free Sapporo for the hold up, which is a really nice gesture.
Miso seared salmon and avocado sushi
Funnily enough, we got some sushi not long after that but it was the wrong one so this had to be sent back as well. Our seared salmon sushi did arrive in the end and it looked pretty good so the wait felt worthy. The salmon wasn't as thick and juicy as the seared salmon from Kimono (our favourite store for seared salmon sushi) but we liked the crispy shallot hay that topped the dish.
Beef eye fillet skewers with yuzu peppers
The beef skewers smelt charred and lovely. I was quite full by this stage but still took a couple of bites to try. The beef was very tender but on its own, was unexciting. Then, I noticed the yuzu paste on the side and paired that with the beef. That made all the difference. The citrusy, pepepry yuzu flavour worked wonderfully with the beef.
Despite some obvious service issues, Marc and I enjoyed our food and experience at Izakaya Goku. I like to think that these are just teething troubles that will smooth out as the restaurant finds its feet. The whole time we were there, we observed only 2 waiters front of house and for such a busy night, they could have used an extra pair of hands. The food itself was quite fresh and as a whole, very tasty. We liked the spicy karaage chicken bomb best.