Saturday, 14 June 2014

Casual Dining - Kwan Brothers

How crazy is the Valley dining scene getting?  It seems like week in and week out, there is a new dining venue opening and they all seem pretty cool. Much has been written about the ever expanding number of American (Gringo) style dining spots, so it's pretty refreshing to write about a different type of opening.

There are plenty of Asian style restaurants in the Valley and Sunnybank, but new openings don't normally garner much attention.  That's where Damien Griffith and his team come into their own.  Not afraid to mix things up, Damien is responsible for Valley hot spots Alfred and Constance, Chester Street Kitchen and Alfredo's Pizza, a trio of very different styles of food.  It's now a quartet with the opening of the very funky Kwan Brothers and I was invited along recently to check it out.

Kwan Brothers is located in Alfred Street right next door to Alfredo's Pizza and is nothing like any Asian style restaurant I've been to before.  Equal parts hawker market from Singapore and night markets of Hong Kong it balances out the funkier and seedier sides of Asia style dining establishments and bars.  The interior is polished cement floors and dark walls with bright red neon signs that are unmistakably Asian in their influence and all add to the feel that you've entered a different world.  An exposed kitchen has the sights, sounds and smells that further contribute to the sense of disappearing into the depths of Singapore, Hong Kong or even Tokyo.

I was meeting up with a couple of blogger buddies and we were given the opportunity to go wild with the menu and test out as much of the interesting looking Asian fusion food as our bellies could cope with.  The menu is designed for sharing and provides a heap of traditional and contemporary Asian cuisines that come in small and large plates but I particularly loved the description of desserts, happy endings, which is a double entendre if every I've heard one!

We kicked off by ordering half a dozen of the small plates and it wasn't long before the kitchen started sending out plates of food at a rapid rate.  First was the aptly named Kwan's Fried Chicken, which was an original Kwan's secret recipe and was served with some pickled daikon and a sweet and sour sauce.  The crispy coating was golden brown and had a lovely crunch that didn't feel oily or greasy and coated the well cooked and still moist chicken.  The flesh was quite sweet, as was the coating but it was balanced by the slightly acidic pickled daikon and the sweet and sour sauce.

We'd only just finished taking photos of the Kwan'd Fried Chicken when the next small plate of Vietnamese salmon tartare with cucumber, min, dill and prawn crackers was presented.  I really love tartare, be it beef or fish, and this was a lovely example of the right combination of flavours, textures and quality ingredients that hit the spot.  The idea was to scoop up the salmon tartare into the prawn crackers and I especially loved the crunch that came from the combo.

What visit to an Asian style restaurant would be complete without testing out the spring rolls, it's almost like a rite of passage.  The Kwan Brothers version was a crispy Peking duck spring roll with shitake, cucumber, fresh herbs and a plum sauce.  Some spring rolls can be overly greasy, which is kind of OK sometimes, but these had the right amount crunch and even better, had a decent amount of duck filling to make the flavour pop in your mouth.  The plum sauce had a great little punch and really complimented the spring rolls well.

The food kept coming thick and fast and before we'd had any plates finished off the bao bao sliders hit the table.  With cool names like yippie yo yippie ya, the pork and chicken bao bao (sliders) looked pretty messy but were quite delicious, especially the pork slider.  I've not really come across too many pork buns that look as great as they taste (accept maybe these ones at Momofuku Noodle Bar in NYC here) but that's not always the point, its about the taste and enjoyment you get from eating them.

I've never been a fan of tofu so was pretty apprehensive about our next dish of grilled silken tofu with garlic, lemongrass and chilli.  I'd normally not even try the tofu as it just doesn't excite me but after a little coaxing from the table and thinking that they actually looked great, I decided to take a square.  They were not too bad but truth be told, I'm never going to be a convert but as far as tofu goes, they were OK, kind of like marshmallow pillows that had been deep fried.

After chowing down on some more of the small plates, it was time for us to test out some of the big plate options and first up was the crispy bork belly with pickled watermelon and sweet ginger.  Dry cooked pork belly is a fairly common Asian style dish and it's easy for the balance to be wrong.  This was an interesting dish because, on it's own, the pork belly was a little dry, but that's not how the dish was designed.  It was important to have equal parts pork and watermelon for the dish to balance out well and once you got the moist and sweet watermelon combined with the pork, it was really good.

The last of our mains was the most spectacular tasting dish of the entire meal!  The charcoal flamed lamb ribs with pickled ginger, soy and chilli dressing was simply delicious.  Lamb ribs are always great but the Kwan Brother's version had a wonderful caramelisation that was just shy of being burnt that had an incredible depth of flavour and crunch.  The deep flavour of the caramelised lamb contrasted beautifully with the sweet flesh of the lamb and the pickled ginger added some zing to the dish.

It was time to check out dessert (or happy ending) and we were all excited to check out the 'Too bao to handle and too cold to hold' which was a fancy way of describing ice cream sandwiches.  The deep fried bao buns held a mixture of different Asian inspired ice cream flavours including toasted sesame, pandan, palm sugar and ginger.  They were quite interesting and unusual to eat, with the deep fried bao having a firm and toasty texture that complimented the smooth ice cream.  Definitely worth checking out, especially if you like your desserts on the unusual side.

We'd had a veritable feast of Asian fusion cuisine and were completely stuffed.  Along with the food described in this post, we'd also checked out some yummy grilled ground beef in Betal leaf which I loved and the beef short ribs, that I didn't.  We'd also tried out the pineapple fried rice, which came presented in a huge half of a pineapple, which looked pretty amazing.

Kwan Brothers is not your usual Asian restaurant, not by a long shot, but you'd expect nothing less from Damien Griffith.  It's dark and seedy (in a good way) and transports you away from Brisbane into the mean streets of Asia and if feels as if at any time you could witness a kung fu fight between warring Yakuza or Triad members.  And when your imagination stops getting away from you, it could easily be a spot where a karaoke contest would break out, a feeling which is enhanced by the disco balls hanging fro the ceiling.

There are many great things about Kwan Brothers, the food is just as you'd want it, it's a great place to hang out mid week in a casual setting but with an edge that would work well on a Saturday night with a DJ spinning some tunes.  What I love most about Kwan Brothers is the 'Speak Easy' style bar that's hidden at the back of the restaurant which specialises in Japanese whisky.  There's just something cool about the whole place..... Perhaps we are entering the century of Asian kitsch and dominance after all.


**I was a guest of Kwan Brothers for this meal

We had so much food on our table - who knew where to begin
The grilled ground beef in Betal leaf was lovely - but it didn't photograph well :)
Plenty of cocktail options at Kwan Brothers
The open style kitchen with the smells of Asia (the good ones)
The secret speak easy bar - see if you can find it
Speak Easy bars emanated from the 1920's and prohibition - they were meant to be impossible to find
Japanese whisky is fast becoming the connoisseurs choice - the Japanese do things very well... 
Can you see the Asian influence? 
Its like downtown Hong Kong
The lighting and disco balls help if feel like karaoke is just around the corner 
Kwan Brothers is open - go check it out for yourself

Kwan Brothers on UrbanspoonKwan Brothers


  1. Great photos! Venue and food looks excellent with so much charm, especially the Vietnamese salmon tartare. :)

    1. Cheers Padaek, was some great food on offer!!


Thanks very much for your comment, I really love and appreciate feedback and your thoughts


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...