Much of the important need-to-know info regarding Teneriffe eatery Aji can be conveyed via its name alone. Firstly, Aji is the name of co-owner Dion Owen’s mother, hinting at the venue’s familial underpinning. Second, aji in Japanese means flavour and taste – its significance coincidentally underscored by the fact that the Owens lived in Japan for a decade. Thirdly, aji is a small, orange-red chilli pepper native to South America, which is a thematic connection that hints at the spice-infused nature of Aji’s menu. Of course, there’s much more about this brand-new concept – which opened in late-October at the base of the Australian Mercantile Land & Finance Woolstores – that you should know. This cosy day-and-night outpost, sandwiched between Zero Fox and Streetcorner Jimmy in the old Brio space, is the brainchild of Dion, his wife Nalini, son Nicholas and daughter Akaashni – a family of foodies whose love of top-notch nosh can likely be attributed to Nalini’s home cooking. To hear Dion tell it, Nalini’s curries are the stuff of legend. Her recipes – a finely honed blend of spices, herbs and ingredients – are simply too good not to share, so the Owen family decided to enter the hospitality game, snagging a spot on one of Brisbane’s busiest strips to showcase some mouth-watering day starters in the morning, an alluring array of Indian-inspired eats at night and a cocktail-driven drinks list.
The venue’s poky interior, which houses the bar and kitchen, has been given a cosmetic makeover, with a decluttering process and lick of paint resulting in an understated yet chic feel. Aji’s seating is located out on the street-facing deck, with new timber banquettes and two- and four-seater high bars fashioned out of reclaimed rafters. For the past few weeks locals have popped in to browse the daytime menu, which features an assortment of familiar brunch staples, including crispy tortilla omelettes, corn fritters served with grilled haloumi, poached eggs and salsa-and-beetroot relish, brekkie boards and banana pancakes (available alongside fresh juices and coffee from Genovese). Aji debuted its nighttime menu last Friday November 12, which head chef Colin Gray and Nepalese chefs Nikesh and Dendi collaborating with Nalini on a well-rounded offering that suits the share-style gourmandising that goes hand-in-hand with a drink or two. Lightly-spiced mixed-vegetable pakoras, aromatic beef koftas infused with torn curry leaves, crispy barramundi paratha pockets with chilli-lime mayo and succulent pan-seared lamb cutlets with butter bean ragout lead into a trio of Nalini’s curries (chicken, pumpkin and mixed vegetable), which are also available as part of a mixed curry set served with raita, tomato-and-coriander chutney, rice and paratha. Nick, who you’ll see pouring coffees and shaking cocktails at Aji every week, has curated a drinks list includes a clutch of craft beers (Aji’s four taps currently feature ales from Hudson Brewing and All Inn Brewing Co.), a selection of Mediterranean wines and cocktails. Nick’s concoctions are pan-Asian-inspired and make great use of the venue’s fresh juices, with the yuzu and mandarin mojito, Thai mango martini, and strawberry and basil margarita sure to provide the perfect refreshing sip when things get a bit spicy.
Aji is now open to the public – click over to the Stumble Guide for more details.