Suburbs hold some surprisingly good foodie finds, and Tokyo Chubo is one example of this. Nestled in an enclave of shops in Sunnybank, you have to drive into the complex to be able to see the storefront.
It is a cosy space, with enough room to fit about eight tables of diners, without people being packed elbow-to-elbow. It has a modern Japanese aesthetic of simple, clean-lined decor with plenty of wood and stone hues. The service counter, which also held the sushi preparation station, was lined with strips of wood in different shades. The tables, chairs, and shelves behind the counter were also in similar natural wood colours. Warm lighting was provided by both recessed lights and hanging pendant lights, although these were more useful at night than in the daytime, when there was enough natural light coming in through the glass that fronted the restaurant.
Their menu is presented as a number of clipped-together sheets on a small wooden clipboard. We have been there at both lunch and dinnertimes, and the menu contents and prices are the same for both. The menu is compact, but contains a range of what most would associate with typical Japanese dishes, such as sashimi, a limited range of sushi, udon, Japanese curry, and bento boxes that include main items like pork katsu and karaage chicken.
Over our visits there, we have tried a number of dishes, some multiple times.
One of the items on the menu in the Chef Signature section is the Tempura Prawn Ponzu. We have had this a number of times, and it has been consistently good. You are brought a bowl with five large prawns, arrayed almost like a shark fin sticking out of the water, and a little pool of ponzu sauce at the bottom. It is garnished with shilgochu, which adds colour to the dish, rather than any heat. The description and pictures don’t quite do the dish justice. Each time we have had them, the prawns have been plump and juicy, cooked just right so they retain a fresh pop. The batter coating is light and crunchy, and never oily. Despite the ends sitting in the ponzu sauce, they actually stay crisp for quite a while. The ponzu sauce adds a great moreish salty, sweet, and slightly tart flavour kick. This definitely calls for double (or rather multiple) dipping, because the prawns are just too big to fit in the bowl and get enough sauce on at first pass.
Another item we have quite regularly had when there is the Sashimi moriwase. They have it in either a large or small size. We like sashimi, so have often ordered the large sashimi. While the range of components you get with it is not spectacularly wide – usually tuna, a couple of different cuts of salmon, yellowtail, and sometimes kingfish, surf clams, and/or scallops – they are fresh and well-cut. It is also always beautifully arranged.
The Chirashi bowl is an option for those who want some carbs with their protein. It does cost slightly less than the small sashimi, and has a similar range of fish (though cut differently). If you don’t want to share, this may be the option for you.
They have a number of bentos, in which you pick a main protein dish, which is then served with rice, salad, miso soup, and a couple of pieces of sashimi.
We have had the pork katsu, which is generously coated in panko crumbs. The pork cutlet is a good thickness, and well-cooked, so it remains tender. It is a meaty cut, typically without gristle. The coarse panko crumbs add a good crunch to it. The sauce accompanying it is strongly flavoured, a combination of sweet, salty, and faintly tangy, in a different balance and density to the ponzu sauce.
We have also had the curry chicken katsu. This had a chicken cutlet also coated in panko crumbs, and served with a pool of Japanese curry. This is the typical way a Japanese curry dish is served, but sitting in the sauce does make the otherwise crunchy coating go soft where it is in contact, taking away from the textural delight.
Overall, Tokyo Chubo is a real suburban gem. It has good quality sashimi, and at better prices than you might get at many city restaurants. It has a cosy charm, reminiscent of some of the little eateries we visited in Japan. There is limited seating, and they don’t take bookings on weekends, so if you’re planning to dine there, get in early.
Price point: Bento boxes $23 to $27. Sashimi $29 for the small, $58 for the large. Tempura prawns $25.
Value: Good, for what you get.
Address: Shop 4/581 Beenleigh Rd, Sunnybank
Phone: 07 3706 9022
Website: Tokyo Chubo