by Jodi Panayotov
For diners hankering after something other than the usual much-loved dinner suspects – Indian, Thai, Italian and Chinese – but don't know where to begin to look, there are plenty of alternatives around town. Here are ten options to spice up the dining life:
Mu-ooz – Since setting up shop in the basement of Moorooka's black and white checkered arcade, Mu'ooz has become a magnet for African families and Brisbane diners who've discovered the back to basic pleasures (and prices) of Eritrean food. Traditional dishes such as Kantisha, a rich mushroom stew and Qulwa, sauteed lamb cubes and Zighni, a spicy beef or chicken curry are all mopped up with staple 'bread' Injera.
Punjabi By Nature – One page of the menu in this cute Paddington cottage is devoted to Eritrean food, with the staples such as hearty vegetarian and meat stews and curries and savoury pastries like sambusa a delicious alternative to the Indian.
Red and White – Most nights this bright and basic little restaurant in South Brisbane gets packed with Peruvians hungering for a taste of home. Dishes are hearty and rustic and feature chunky lamb and beef herbed stews, Peruvian style curry, risotto and paella and grilled fish while entrees are more delicate - Pulpo al Olivo (octopus in black olive sauce) and Cebiche de Pescado (marinated raw fish).
Chopan Charcoal – Afghani families and taxi drivers are the mainstay customers at this oddly named restaurant tucked upstairs at the busy commercial intersection of Milton and Baroona Rds. Delectable dishes draw on the flavours of North India with the delicacies of the Middle East – from the fragrant lamb and rice pilau style national dish Qabuli Palao, potato bread, kofta, korma, and chargrilled kebabs to Burani Banjan, a rich eggplant based dish, this is a place to feast.
Des Alpes – Des Alpes has been warming the cockles of Mitchelton hearts since time immemorial, especially in winter when it's fondue weather. In fact this quirky faux Alpine hut in the Blackwood St shops is probably the only place in Brisbane where diners get to dip cubes of baguette into the melted cheese or meat hot pot of their choice. Non-fondue fans have plenty of other food for the soul to choose from with schnitzels, Kassler and steaks with rosti the mainstays.
Goa Doodle Doo– A gorgeous art deco dining room complete with basement bar is the setting for feasting on Goan cuisine, which blends the spices of India with the traditional dishes of Portugal. Goat, chicken or fish curries mix it with Portuguese style paella while curry variations such as caldeen (a rich creamy Goan coconut curry), citrus scallops and popular Chicken Cafrael (marinated in coriander and green chilli, braised and chargrilled) add refinement. As a bonus the entire menu has thoughtfully been matched with beer and wine suggestions.
Mundo Churrasco – Tucked away on the top of a Bardon hill is this banquet style dining room where diners are treated to a roving buffet, Brazilian barbecue style. Swarthy young waiters arrive regularly at the table bearing large chunks of meat on skewers and slice them paper thinly at the table while accompaniments – Brazilian potato salad, rice croquettes, salsa and cassava chips are topped up regularly.
The Polish Club – Another one they keep hidden away, this time in the back streets of Milton inside a 1960's stark brick building. The retro dining area and bar have tables that can be occupied by both drinkers and eaters, making for a merry atmosphere and, being a club, food is rock bottom in price with goulashes, Polish dumplings (Pierogi) and cabbage or pork rolls leading the charge.
Umdorman – They don't come more basic than this in dÃ©cor or trimmings – the meals are served from a bain marie â€“ but with a big turnover the food is always fresh. And to sit at one of the tables here is about the nearest you'll come to being at an eatery in an African town without leaving Brisbane. The menu is limited and varies daily but expect to find staples such as okra and vege or eggplant stew, lamb curry or baked fish – choices include up to three with rice.
Villa Maria – More than just a fantastic Mexican restaurant, Villa Maria ventures into a variety of countries, with dishes and delicacies from Peru, Nicaragua, Argentina, Colombia, Chile and El Salvador. All cuisines are equal here – from the delicious Colombian empanadas and Peruvian ceviche to the El Salvadorean chicken, this Coorparoo fave is a real gem.
Ben's Alibi – This exotic little slice of North Africa nestled in the forecourt of the Magistrates Court is only open Friday nights for dinner but for daytime city inhabitants it makes a great value alternative to the general CBD offerings. Tagines, Moroccan pizzas and spiced lentil pies are served on traditional ceramic plates and bowls and tasting platters are a meal unto themselves.
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