After our disappointment with the supposed Diwali Festival in Fortitude Valley, James and I decided to go on a food hunt as we were both starving. Initially, he wanted to head back to the Malaysian restaurant which we frequented but I pointed out that I wanted to try Nonbei. I often pass it on the way to work for almost a year and it had never crossed our minds to give Nonbei a go.
Located on Ann Street in Fortitude Valley, it looks like a quaint restaurant and at times, I could smell wafts of barbecued meat whenever we passed by it at night.
Image taken from: http://www.urbanspoon.com/rph/337/1691859/1603452/brisbane-nonbei-sake-bar-bbq-shop-front-photo
We didn't know what time it opened for dinner until I googled it on my phone (a sign would have been nice) and thankfully, we only had 5 minutes worth of wait before we went in (opens at 6pm for dinner). Upon arrival, a wait staff came up and asked if we had any reservations and we said no. I was not to sure at first if she said that we had to wait until 7:45pm to get a seat, in which I loudly declared that we couldn't wait that long before she clarified that we had until 8pm to finish our food, to which we agreed.
She then brought us to this massive dining table with BBQ stoves (there was like 6 or more), sat us down and left us to attend to sit other patrons. However, we sat there for a couple of minutes (like dumbasses) as we weren't provided any menus immediately.
BBQ grill stove (Nonbei charges $1AUD for each BBQ mesh used)
Funnily, it was as if another wait staff could sense my look of disappointment and impatience as I muttered quietly to myself "Where the fuck are the menus?".
He quickly gave us the menus and asked us if we were going ala carte or having the buffet. We stated the buffet (we had the cheapest option - $40AUD per person) and briefly told us that we were to write the quantity of food we desired on the ordering sheets (these were multi-coloured sheets with the buffet menu on them and blank spots for us to fill in the amount of food we wanted to order).
These ordering sheets were quite confusing, considering that some of the meats were to be ordered based on weight of 100g and seafood, like prawn was based on the number of prawns. It was simple enough, but 100g and quantity? How many servings are there in a 100 grams and how big are the quantities if we ordered one beef rice?? Heck, we gave it a shot anyways and decided that if we hadn't had enough, we'd order more.
The first meat that caught my eye was the ox tongue and ordered 200g of that, 4 pork belly slices, one portion of the beef stew, 2 beef rice, 10 prawns, some more pork, 2 karaage salsa chicken, some onions and mushrooms and kimchi.
When the waitress finally arrived and gave her our orders, she told us that we had until 7:45pm. I personally do not like it when I am rushed, especially at a buffet. Sure enough, an hour and 45 minutes was somewhat enough for me, but the feeling of being rushed wasn't very pleasant.
I also do not like sitting opposite strangers on a huge table. Really feels awkward.
On the up-side, drinks service was definitely efficient - our beers came within minutes of ordering.
Our food came slowly, first the ox tongue (which I was surprised by the quantity of 200g) and then the salsa karaage chicken (2 pieces was tiny!!). The waiter which brought our portion of the ox tongue did not show us how to turn the BBQ on. It was quite frustrating that they assumed we had been there before and knew what to do.
Prior to our meals arriving, I decided to have a taste of the dipping sauces they'd provided on the table. Holy mother of God.... THE SAUCE IS.... (it rendered me speechless). There was 2 - one was like a sweet soy sauce with hints of roasted garlic or something and the other was a thick chunky chilli paste which was a wee bit spicy and mostly sweet. Mix them both, and it is THE MOST HEAVENLY SAUCE MIXTURE.
Raw ox tongue - 200g
After grilling the ox tongue for a couple of minutes (or until I thought it was cooked enough), I dipped it into the sauce mixture and OMFG.....!!! *mouth orgasm*
Chewy (not too extremely), tender, and has somewhat a crunchy texture and a very beefy taste. It was the best ox tongue ever (especially when dipped with the sauce). It even made my skeptical boyfriend a complete convert into having tongue.
Whatever this sauce is, I'm completely hooked! (I wish I knew what it was called or even made of, so I can make some of my own at home T_T)
Four slices of pork belly with some sauce and sesame seeds prior to cooking.
Pork belly was good (I absolutely love fatty porky meat. At this rate, I'm going to get very, very fat).
Kimchi - crisp, fresh, sour... all the quality I like in kimchi!!!
After gobbling down the ox tongue, we realised that the rest of what we ordered hasn't arrived at all (after 20 minutes or so) and decided to check on it with the waiter. Of all the things that came first, was a waitress with a huge clay jar of fresh kimchi. I told her to pop me a massive serving. Took a bite and fresh kimchi is awesome.
Next, came the beef stew (which was unexpectedly a small portion):
Small portion or not, OMG.... MOST FLAVOURSOME TENDER BEEF STEW EVER! *tears of joy*
Our other orders came as well (I did not take a good photo of the beef rice, so unfortunately no photo! But it was so flavoursome as well!) and we gobbled those down in a hurry too due the the time limit.
James had ordered 10 pieces of prawn and we both expected a regular size prawn, not humongous tiger prawn sized ones! We definitely were too greedy and underestimated the size of those prawns.
Prawns, onion rings and mushroom!
My poor baby had to peel hot prawns off the grill and we literally stuffed our faces with those motherfuckers.
At the end, I really think we ate $40AUD worth of food, and all this in only an hour! I was impressed.
Okay, time for the verdict!
- Presentation: 3.5/5 (Most of it was raw meat, but all looked appetizing)
- Food/Taste: 4.5/5 (Sauce was to die for and so was the ox tongue, pork belly and beef stew)
- Service: 2.5/5 (Could have been better. They should not expect all customers to know what to do when they arrive. Also, hated that we felt rushed eating and pressured on ordering a lot due to the time limit placed on us)
- Monetary value: 3/5 (Would have given it more if we had more time and more space in our stomachs!)
Over all, I found the food to be good albeit the lacking in the service. It is only worth $40AUD cause we stuffed ourselves silly in the given timeframe. I would definitely want to go back for that ox tongue!
Note for future visits: Make a booking (that'll probably ensure that you don't get a placed time limit, hopefully). Also, for seafood lovers, the next few upgrades in the buffet menu gets you oysters and scallops (which looked huge when I was being nosey and looking at what the couple next to us ordered).
Barbecue away at:
Nonbei Japanese BBQ & Sake Bar
624 Ann Street | Fortitude Valley
Brisbane, Queensland 4006, Australia
(P): 07 3252 3275