Brisbane’s become cooler than me

Everyone always digs on Brisbane. Even when I first moved to Australia it was all “it’s too small; everything closes early; there’s nowhere good to eat.” Compare it to likes of Sydney or Melbourne, and yeah, I get it. But guess what haters, at some point since moving away a year and a half ago, Brisbane’s upped its ante.

I always said if I could have the culture of Melbourne coupled with the weather of Brisbane I would be set for life. Now, I’m not going to go as far and say it’s been accomplished but seriously Brisbane, you’re picking up your weight.

On my most recent visit I was blown away at the duck liver parfait served at James Street’s trendy Gerard’s Bar. In fact, I added it on my “best thing ever” list and that was even after devouring truffle salami and mackerel tartare. Could the Brisbane dining scene be creeping in Melbourne’s wake?

And as for Fortitude Valley, the once seedy and still may be but only if you don’t know where to go now that Brisbane is cool, nightlife neighborhood, I didn’t go out ‘in’ the Valley but rather ‘under’ the Valley. Greaser, an American themed bar is housed in the cellar of a 130-year-old heritage building offering craft beers, American imports and a stellar whiskey list on the side of classic hot dogs.

Sure, I was still living in town when the hippest thing was old Queensland cottages being converted into uber-chic bars like Alfred & Constance, Kettle & Tin and Sixes & Sevens – as they all have uber-cool names too, but I hear even ‘hippie-haven’ West End has transformed itself upmarket with some new additions in its pocket.

I think it goes without saying another area where Brisbane hasn’t failed us is the craft beer front. From my old hang The Scratch to Tenerife’s Tippler’s Tap and their recent Southbank prodigy Tomohawk Bar and let’s not forget the micro-brewers Green Beacon and classic Bacchus Brewing, Brisbane is where its at.

What’s still not cool is having to leave an establishment to go find a bathroom somewhere down the street rather then in the bar/restaurant/café, but over time you may just get that right too, Brisbane.

In the meantime, I recognize there’s all the extra stuff that even made Brisbane cool back when I was living there. An awesome music scene, a laid back life style and pristine beaches in an arm’s reach, so yeah Brisbane, maybe you were cool all along.

Read more about my adventures in Brisbane here.

Sushi Steal of Tribeca

Sake Bomb

When friends of mine proposed all you can eat & drink Sushi in Tribeca for a mere $30 I was skeptical, this has to be the california roll only kind of deal. So as a group of us hauled into a few cabs and made the short trek from the West Village over to Greenwich Street my mind was racing of the thought of spending my hard-earned pennies potentially planting me in bed all weekend from consuming defective raw fish.

If you’re attempting to visit Ashiya III (also has sister locations in the East Village and Jersey City) on a weekend make reservations. Simple enough – this place gets packed! Walking in we were quickly ushered to a group of small wooden tables pushed together making one long sake-bomb shelf. Listening to the amusing and rambunctious tables around us it was evident that we could wait no longer. At precise timing the waitress delivered to each table setting a clear glass cup, and inside, a ceramic sake cup.

Bang, drop, drink. With careful expertise the gentlemen of the table poured their glass cups halfway with Asahi Beer. Next the sake cups were filled from the small white sake pitchers. Chop sticks were placed side by side and layed on top of the beer cups. Then the sake cup was placed on top of the chop sticks. All are ready and marching orders are in place. At the count of three…bang, drop, drink! Fists pound on the table; sake quickly drops in the beer cup; and the men rush to drink the contents as fast as possible. I see a long night ahead of us.

What’s most impressive about this place is the two-sided menu. At first glance, the one side has your traditional sashimi and basic sushi roll offerings – spicy crunchy tuna, california roll, philadelphia roll. This met my expectations and therefore I was ready to order my usual “I’m on a budget” fare but before I could complete my order the waitress quickly pointed out that there’s more. There’s more? (subtle eye brow lift).

Heck yes there’s more! There’s maki rolls made from real crab meat and speciality rolls – each unique enough to make you scratch your head and ask yourself, but which one do I choose? Choose all! It’s all you can eat, duh! A few table favorites included the Lover Roll (salmon, crab stick, and avocado with spicy crunchy tuna on top) or the Dinosaur Roll (cucumber, avocado, and tempura flake with broiled white tuna and masago on top).

When your 2 hours are up it’s time to get out and the staff aren’t afraid to say so. We started to notice before our next pitcher of beer was ordered and the few pieces of sushi were soon scarfed down a check magically appeared on our table. The extra $10 per person thrown on for tax and gratuity make the $30 all-inclusive more like a $40 all-inclusive but hey, it still ain’t a bad deal baby and the sushi was damn good.

Ashiya Sushi I
680 Rt 440
Jersey City, NJ 07304

Ashiya Sushi II
167 1st Ave
New York, New York 10003

Ashiya Sushi III
374 Greenwich St
New York, New York 10013

Could this be beer heaven?

We crawl through Hells Kitchen and down restaurant row. Although its cold outside, it’s not cold enough for us to see our breath. The glow of Christmas lights outside the boutique restaurants gives a sense of comfort, despite the holiday having gone. Onward, march.

Approaching 10th avenue there isn’t too much around except a vast Hess Station on the corner of 45th street. Taking up nearly a whole block, this immeasurable vicinity sticks out as awkwardly as your grandmother at a gay cabaret. But there is another defining characteristic to this street corner, The Pony Bar.

Stouts, hefeweizen, IPA…hops upon hops upon hops! Glorious days, I think to myself, this has to be the best place on earth. What makes this place so unique is that it serves only craft brews from across the US. That means you may try a Belgian ale or a delicious German wheat but its going to be grown domestically.

I feel like I’m on Family Feud when I scan the large board taking up the back wall behind the bar. Each listing depicts the brewery, beer, and alcohol content (ABV). No need to mention price because they’re all only $5. Try and find another steel like that in Manhattan. I dare ya.

I’m intrigued by the breweries and curious to learn more. Where is Goose Island and what’s their speciality? How about Sly Fox? I’m seeing a theme here that many brewers choose names from animals, uhum, Dog Fish Head.

I take notice of the clock on the wall. It’s permanently stalled at 4:20. I find it no coincidence then that their happy hour which earns patrons $1 off all drafts runs from 4:20-5:20 daily. I approach the bartender and ask for one of their large score sheets. This allows me to keep track of each beer I drink and give it a rating. Once I hit 100 I get a free t-shirt. Clearly obtaining this goal is my latest priority.

I now spend my days daydreaming about the next time I will be able to stop in the Pony Bar, grab a seat at one of their large picnic tables, and dabble with the thought of which beer will catch my fancy. For starters, I cannot get that Cappuccino Stout out of my mind!