There are benefits to dining early. It’s 6pm, Saturday night in Fortitude Valley. Like-minded hungry, eager patrons make their way into either three of restaurateur Damian Griffiths’ Alfred Street establishments, us included. Deciding to dine early at the newly-opened Asian eatery, Kwan Brothers, was a stroke of genius. It ensured the best seat in the house, a spot up on a high bench with full view of the open kitchen in range of all the fragrant smells wafting from the grill.
Behind us, a large wall is adorned with drawings and photos of Asian pop culture identities (yes, Psy is there, doing Gangnam style of course) and large communal tables sporting bare tabletops fill up as the night progresses. Above us, neon lights are studded around the room and disco balls are positioned at the entrance signifying passage into another paradox.
The menu has an eclectic range of Asian food drawing culinary influence from the hawker stands in Singapore to the Izakayas of Tokyo.
Piping hot, crispy duck spring rolls arrive first ($14.90) and are packed with plenty of juicy shredded duck meat and shitake mushrooms, which blend well with the accompanying sweet and tangy plum dipping sauce.
Soon after, two soft shell crab baos ($12.90) arrive with the right ratio of bun to filling, crisp crab and a delicious unique chili jam sharply flavoured with shrimp paste.
Charcoal grilled lamb ribs ($14.90) delivered with an eye-pleasing burnt char and long strips of pickled ginger, bring a hit of sweet and sour and crunch to the tender ribs.
Grilled ground beef in betel leaf ($14.90) is a ‘you would either love it or hate it’ kind of dish, with an intricate flavour underlining the ground beef. Some kind of mushroom or fungus perhaps?
The star of the night went to the crispy pork belly with watermelon and sweet ginger ($25.90). The refreshing watermelon cubes enriched with a sticky syrup counteracted the fattiness of the unctuous pork belly, making me wonder why this is only the first time I have seen this flavour combo.
Southern Thai Massaman Lamb curry ($25.90) lacked sufficient lamb shank meat and roasted sweet potato, but made up for it in its well-balanced creamy curry sauce.
The night would only be complete after squeezing in the bao ice cream sandwiches ($14.90), which are presented as three different ice cream flavours: palm sugar and ginger; toasted sesame; and pandan. Sharing between two? Trust me, it is worth fighting for.
Service was knowledgeable and personable but perhaps a case of over-serving.
Each course arrived nicely spaced out so as not to overcrowd the small bar space in front, somewhat contradicting the traditional Asian banquet style of eating. Kwan Brothers has already made a huge splash on the Brisbane food scene, aptly named the winner of the ‘Best Food Under $30’ category in the Brisbane Times Good Food Guide 2014.
Dine early, sit at the bar (if you can) and fall into the fun, kooky, Asian charm of Kwan Brothers.