Turning Japanese.

Monday, March 22, 2010

So most of you know that Stephen and I are going back to Japan in two weeks time. We absolutely cannot wait! I'd love to do a special Project Romance update from beautiful cherry-blossoming Kyoto - but I do not plan to have the time to do so. But I can do the next best thing! 

It's no secret that I love Japanese food. And Brisbane is fast becoming a place with CHOICES (shock!) when Stephen and I get that hankering. There are a few choices when it comes to choosing this cuisine. The good thing is - Japanese food comes in all shapes and sizes and for all budgets. ALL of it is as romantic as you want to make it.

Sure you may not be able to cosy up on high stools at a sushi train, but what better place to go and sample new tastes together? I'm quickly learning which of Brisbane's sushi trains are worth paying for and which are simply taking you 'for a ride'. (Didya like that? I thought that up all by myself!). So without further ado, here are my Top 3.

3. Ginga Sushi Train - Southbank (near the cinemas). Funky lighting, and a train as long as the eye can see. Decent selection of Japanese drinks (sake is fairly typical - but after a few, you won't notice). One of the only places I know that serves edamame (although order it fresh - it's not so nice after sitting on the train for 10 minutes...). Good selection of both adventurous and not-so-adventurous sushi - however can get pricey. The dim blue lighting and atmosphere here is defintely date-worthy - especially if you're looking for something a bit interesting. Great place for dinner and a movie.

2. Sushi Station - Toombul (Centro Shopping Centre). This was my very first sushi train experience and remains a favourite even to this day. The staff are friendly, and will make you whatever you want if you can't find it on the train. Lots of the usual favourites here - and sometimes they'll surprise you with something a bit different. Doesn't matter either way - it's GREAT sushi and decently priced.

1. Sushi Station - Oxford St, Bulimba (next to Balmoral cinemas). Stephen and I have eaten here twice now and it has blown us away both times. It's a tiny establishment with a few romantic dark corners thrown in for good measure. The staff are great - and the food is phenomenal. You'll find something for everyone on this train - regardless if you're a seasoned sushi consumer or otherwise. Another great place for dinner and a movie. Especially if you're on a budget.

HOWEVER - if you're after something a little classier - or that absolutely PERFECT five star dining experience - I cannot say this ENOUGH - you need to head to Sono Restaurant at Portside (also in the city - however I haven't been to this one - I can imagine it's fairly similar). You get unparalleled views over the river, dim romantic lighting, and sumptuous food with an extensive wine and sake list. I try to get here at least once a year - because it's just a little slice of authentic, classy five-star Japan. The menu caters for both experienced and inexperienced palates and I highly recommend the tasting platters - especially if you're in the mood to try new things. Do yourself a favour and try it - you will not be disappointed!

  • Summary: Five star Japanese dining experience. Romantic as ANYTHING.
  • Tip: There is a beautiful boardwalk downstairs that stretches out along the river at Hamilton with lots of private places to sit and listen to the river lapping against the the edge. Breathtaking on a full moon-lit night!
  • Transport: Buses go past Portside - however check times later at night. There is an undercover carpark for restaurant visitors.
  • Where: Portside Wharf - 39 Hercules Street, Hamilton
  • When: Mon-Wed noon-2.30pm, 6pm-9.30pm. Thu-Fri noon-2.30pm, 6pm-10pm. Sat 6pm-10pm
    Sun 5.30pm-9pm
  • Cost: Five star restaurant prices - although can be reasonable depending on what you order.
  • Website: http://www.sonorestaurant.com.au/
  • Perfect For: Something different, romantic dinner, waterfront dining.
  • Downsides: Pricey pricey pricey. But soooo worth it.

Letting Go

There comes a time in everyone's life when they find themselves in places that they never thought they'd be and feeling things that they never thought they'd feel. What once felt like utopia, can turn into disillusionment. How could you go so wrong when it was supposed to be forever? Anyone who has gone through a relationship breakup will know how this feels. Do you save the relationship? Why should you if the other person doesn't even know you're alive? Should you forgive them? Should you move on? There are no easy answers and no quick solutions. You're in for years of trust-rebuilding, and second guessing yourself, and worse - explaining to family and friends how wrong you were. How do they trust you again? What if you find someone else? Do you start to feel like the boy that cried wolf? "Oh - but this one's real...I promise." 

I have gone through this now twice in my 30 years. The first time, I think you can be forgiven - especially if you were young when you made those decisions. The second time is harder - especially if there's a wedding somewhere in the middle of that relationship. How do you say to all of those family and friends years later that you were wrong? Or that you tried as hard as you could? That you made a mistake? Well...that's a personal thing, I suppose. All you can do is try to surround yourself with loving friends and family who will help you weather the storm.

When do you let go though? Is there a prescribed timeframe? A socially acceptable norm? I have asked myself these same questions. Essentially - the only rule of thumb is that you let go whenever you are ready to - and not a moment before. You will have people tell you that the sooner you do it, the better - but you run the risk of bottling all of that hurt and resentment, rather than letting go. You have to truly ask yourself what you will do without access to your former partner's life (Facebook addicts, I'm looking at you...). Can you cope without knowing how they are and whether they're surviving without you? I can tell you now - you will drive yourself insane if you do - BUT - if you're not ready to cut the thread that ties you to that need, then by all means - don't. You're in for more pain - but it depends on what your threshold is as to when you choose to not hurt anymore.

The hardest part is when your former partner finds someone else. Suddenly it's all over the internet with a thousand people showering them with congratulations at a rate of knots. Or that's how it seems.  You feel every emotion possible - sometimes all at once. You ask yourself what their new partner has that you don't. You find flaws in both them and yourself. You erupt into sudden tears at work, on the bus, out running, watching TV. You swing between being better off and not coping. Jealousy really knows how to ramp up the pain. And I can tell you - it's probably about now that most people drop out of the resentment race. Competing with a new flame is a whole different ballgame and drives people to do stupid, irrational things. 

I'm on the verge of letting go of something that has been a part of my life for nine years now. That's almost a third. I've been to hell and back about a million times over the past two years. I have suffered depression, anxiety and a few too many blows to my self esteem. Sometimes I look at photos and still wonder where it all went wrong. What I did wrong. And what life would have been like if I hadn't have given up. But then I remember why I did. It takes two people to make a successful relationship. Some will suffer through a loveless marriage for fear of what lies beyond if they leave. Those fears are valid, believe me. But they only compound when you're out and you keep looking back.

This weekend I'm going to let go of something and I'm not going to look back. It is quite possibly the scariest and most liberating thing I have ever done in my life. And all I can do now is be grateful for the (albeit few) friends that I have left, and the experiences that I have gained. I am now with someone who allows me the freedom of loving wholeheartedly. Who I don't have to apologise to for simply being myself. Who is everything I have needed but for some reason in the past I have settled for less. 

I look back and wonder if I should have waited for my ex-husband to change (Note to self - people. do. not. change. ever.) instead of putting myself through the pain. The answer is always no. My skin is marked and scarred and not as soft as it used to be. I have lived through several wars and although I did not emerge unscathed, I emerged a better person. I am more secure and fulfilled and my heart is once again bursting with life after being starved of affection for so long.

It is truly his loss.
But there is nothing I can do about that anymore.

Nor do I care to.

Lifting the lido on cozy Ascot dining.

Monday, March 15, 2010

So I spent the weekend in Cairns and fully expected to spend my one day off for this week, working on my diploma and writing a few blog posts for PR – but the incessant droning of machinery from the nearby roadworks was driving me to utter distraction – and unfortunately, procrastination. I then spent an hour driving around the northside of Brisbane for a new café to try (someone should alert the authorities that there is a mass closure of cafes in Wilston on a Monday. SERIOUSLY! Wilston!) I wasn’t in an Ashgrove mood and was just about to relent and go home, when I took a sharp turn into Racecourse Road and autopiloted it to an old favourite of mine: "The Lido".

The Lido is one of those great cafés with a warm atmosphere inside and a trendy, private Al fresco courtyard outside and shock....friendly (!) staff who will do anything to make your dining experience wonderful – whether you’re staying for a meal or just coffee. The second you sit down – you simply feel at home. Their menu is an inviting combination of Italian and modern-Australian-cafe (watch out however for the heavy alliteration!) and they have a simple but effective wine list that takes the guesswork out of choosing the right accompaniment to your meal. It’s is also brilliant just for cozying up with a couple of chai lattes (why, don’t mind if I do – thank you!) and watching the world go by.

  • Summary: Cozy cafe with great food, and brilliant service.
  • Tip: There are a range of tempting desserts – but if you feel like a stroll – why not head down the road to Milany’s for gelati?
  • Transport: Buses run down Racecourse Road quite regularly and there's off-street parking if you're lucky. :)
  • Where: 120 Racecourse Road, Ascot, 4007.
  • When: Mon-Fri 9am-9pm, Sat 8am-10pm, Sun 8am-3.30pm
  • Cost: Upmarket cafe prices - unless you're sharing a pizza/breads etc. Coffee approx $4.50.
  • Website: N/A
  • Perfect For: Coffee, cozy dining, woodfired pizza.
  • Downsides: Mains can be quite pricey - but then, Ascot dining usually is. If you go for the Pizza/Pasta options - it's a lot cheaper - especially if you're sharing. :)

    Feverishly disappointed.

    Tuesday, March 9, 2010

    What better way to spend a Friday night then to kick back with some Sangria and some tapas in an inner-city location, celebrating the end of the working week with your significant other?

    That's what I thought when I skipped gleefully towards Pintxo's at New Farm (yes I know I'm a 30 year old female - hush!). I had been envisaging mouth-watering interesting tapas that were just begging me to feverishly consume them (at the disdain of my credit card), not to mention the authentic-tasting Sangria which wouldn't taste pre-mixed at ALL. 

    The decor was cosy, and the ambience quite nice. But it became quite obvious, quite soon that the Sangria DID taste pre-mixed and the food really wasn't that mouth-watering or interesting. Despite it being a busy Friday night - very few selections were on the tapas train (yes - think sushi train but....Spanish...well, kind of), and we had to order a lot of what we wanted. Which would have been okay if it actually turned up. We waited 40 minutes for a bite-sized morsel to appear in front of us, not to mention my third Sangria (the pre-mixed taste goes away after the first two and you stop caring). The staff were flustered and snapping at each other and we felt like we were on the set of My Kitchen Rules rather than a trendy New Farm restaurant. We paid for what we'd eaten and left - sans final tapas and headed for New York Pizza where big fat slices of cheesy pepperoni awaited us (Why yes, I did regret that decision later) - and then off to the Press Club where large cocktails took the edge off our disappointment.

    Seriously? If it's tapas you want - head to The Lark at Paddington. I'm going to attempt to hunt down some others too. Yes, I will do this for you, my dear readers. All in the name of research. I know. I'm too kind.

    If you have any FANTASTIC cosy tapas places that simply must be checked out - leave me a comment, or email me at erica@dragonflysakura.com. Alternatively - if you have any great tapas RECIPES - same applies (especially if you know how to make deep fried feta stuffed olives...be still my beating heart....) 

    Retreating in style.

    Monday, March 1, 2010

    I know, I know! I need to post more Brisbane-related articles. But I can't help it - I am such a sucker for the hinterland (anywhere!), and ever since leaving the Lismore region a few years back (in ye olde uni days), I have missed the diverse range of scenery that surrounds the beautiful North Coast of NSW. This was Stephen's first Valentines Day (hey - don't knock him - I'm sure you remember what that's like!), and I wanted to make it special - but I was racking my brains. We both had the weekend off (which was a rare occurence in itself), so there was no question about it - we were going away. 

    I had a place in mind that I've wanted to visit for years now - Casurina Lodge, about 15 minutes drive from Mullumbimby in the Byron Bay hinterland. It used to be owned by the Peppers group of resorts, but now I believe it's changed into Mantra's capable hands. 

    The first thing that hits you (aside from your lack of phone reception - but don't worry - you won't need that here!), is how utterly peaceful it is. As you drive up the long driveway towards the cabins - the only thing you can hear is the call of the birds and the wind in the trees. The cabins are duplexed, but fairly well separated from each other. The interior has a cosy-cottage type feel to it with timber floors, warm lighting and throw rugs. There's a small kitchenette for tea and coffee making - and the bedrooms are small but delightful - easing out onto the rainforest-sheltered verandah.

    I'd pre-arranged a massage for Stephen as a surprise - and these start from $100 an for an hour (and go upwards from there). The resort only uses two massage therapists and they both come with very high recommendations (and if you know the Byron area - you'd know that the region thrives on natural therapies - so I knew he was in good hands) (err..no pun intended). I left them to it, and drove down into downtown Mullumbimby in search of a dress to wear to dinner (guess who left her sexy plunge-neckline little black dress back in Brisbane?). "Mullum" as it's known to the locals is a sleepy little down that like the other north-coast areas, has a pub, a Retravision, a town hall, and not much else. I still managed to find a sweet little dress shop with an enthusiastic, if not a little eccentric, owner who pointed me in the right direction.

    I arrived shortly before Stephen's massage had finished, so I sat out on the verandah and soaked in the amazing energies of the property - it's impossible to sit there and be stressed about anything. Later in the afternoon we went for a swim - the pool was deserted, and the temperature just divine. At sunset, we walked down to the creek where the Lodge has provided two deck chairs - just for sitting and being together. They will even provide you with a bottle of wine and two glasses if plan on being there awhile. Or a picnic. In fact there's nothing the staff won't try and organise for you to make your stay absolutely perfect.

    Dinner was at the lodge restaurant "Wilson's On the Creek" (also included in the package deal), and we sat out on the verandah at dusk, with a gorgeous Cab-Shiraz, and some freshly made bread while they made our meal. We both ordered the beef, which it was aged, tender and simply succulent. Dessert was a decadent chocolate souffle - and the perfect end to a great meal.

    Breakfast was also included - and consisted of a light continental breakfast of homemade muesli, yoghurt, fruit and croissants. Perfect for lazing around in the morning sun and preparing for the day.

    When we checked out, the concierge gave us friendly local advice about what to see in the area (highly recommending the Lennox Heads markets), and invited us back to stay with them again soon. 

    • Summary: Rainforest retreat in the Byron Bay hinterland.
    • Tip:  Bring a bottle of wine (or two!). There's a fridge in the cabin - and you do NOT want to pay bar-fridge prices.
    • Transport: Car only (it's a long way out...dirt roads and all!)
    • Where: Casuarina Lodge - 138 Newes Road, Coorabell, NSW.
    • When: Every day/night.
    • Cost: Rates start from approx $150 per night - however you can be lucky to get a 2-course meal + breakfast as part of their 1 Night Escape package for $168. Yes this is for TWO! :)
    • Website: http://www.mantra.com.au/new-south-wales/northern-rivers/byron-bay/accommodation/resorts/casuarina-lodge/ 
    • Perfect for: Romantic getaways, stress-relief, "us" time.
    • Watch out for: The bar-fridge. It gives most expensive hotels a run for their money. Bring your own food if you're planning on snacking/drinking.
    The view from our verandah just before heading down to dinner, at dusk. Gorgeous.

    Project Romance - back online!

    Hello dear readers, it has been awhile, I know. I've had neverending issues with my lack of internet - but it looks like everything is back to normal - at least for now! I hope everyone had a wonderful Valentines Day - mine was more of a "Valentines Weekend" (what can I say - I know an opportunity for romance when I see one!) - Stephen and I spent the night down in the Byron Bay hinterland at Coorabell Lodge which was absolutely divine! More about that in a separate post.

    So how did you celebrate Valentines Day? Some people had absolutely no expectations - some were disappointed. I know that the diamond trade always does well this time of year (no offense to anyone who ever was proposed to on V.Day - but I personally think it's the most cliche'd day of the year to get engaged - but maybe I'm just jaded!).

    Anyway - it's great to be back - expect more posts from me soon! 

    Don't forget if you have any romantic suggestions/reviews or requests for articles - let me know - I'd love to write about them.

    Be well. xo