The other night we took a trip down memory lane and listened to Siouxsie & The Banshees ‘Once Upon a Time’ & ‘Twice Upon a Time’ greatest hits. The first track of the first CD is the exuberant Hong Kong Garden. From the opening notes of the xylophone and cymbals crashing everywhere to the wonderful line ‘Chicken Chow Mein & Chop Suey, Hong Kong Garden Takeaway’, it has some fairly dark themes (‘an old custom to sell your daughter’) that are airbrushed as Siouxsie sings ‘la la la, la la la la la’. It’s such an upbeat, sing-along song and that’s exactly what we did as we drove in the dark on our way home from the coast. Do you know it? Play it in the background while you read the rest of this post. Hong Kong Garden.
Part of the burgeoning Damian Griffiths empire, Kwan Brothers sits alongside Alfredo’s and Alfred & Constance in Alfred St, in an old Noodle Factory. Stepping into Kwan Brothers is like stepping inside Hong Kong Garden. A pastiche of clashing Asian themes that’s a sensory overload. Walls clad with headlines from newspapers and illustrations from movie posters, red lighting, disco balls, neon signs, all to a pop soundtrack (though nary a Siouxsie song). Plates are a mismatch of tongue in cheek re-productions of 1970’s ‘Chinese Restaurant’ patterns and the waiters wear t-shirts printed with images & instructions from chopstick packets of yesteryear. It’s like a Bruce Lee movie crashed into an opium den. There’s a lot going on but you can’t help drinking it all in.
The ever popular shared plate format is on offer with a long menu giving a nod to many Asian countries. From the Asian Street Eats section, we shared a selection of Bao (which are the steamed buns made so popular by Momofuko) including the new Soft Shell Crab Bao (2 for $9.90), Fried Chicken Wings (replacing Kwan Brothers Chicken), new menu item Korean Fried Cauliflower, Beef Short Ribs and Shaking Beef Salad. The Bao buns were not as fluffy or warm as they should have been but the fillings were full of flavour and the delicate soft shell crab was hot and crunchy. The chicken wings (4 for $14.90) were also good, marinated and cooked a first time, then given a crisp spicy coating and cooked again. You really can’t go wrong with chicken wings. Ancient wisdom in a crunchy treat. I’d recommend them to enjoy with one of the huge range of cocktails that have been given an Asian tweak with ingredients such as chilli, lemongrass, lychee and pickled ginger.
The Korean Fried Cauliflower ($12.90) was an absolute winner. Looking for all the world like a plate of popcorn chicken, it was in fact nuggets of cauliflower that had been dipped in a batter and baked or fried then coated in a sticky, spicy glaze. Delish! This would make any vegetarian and even this carnivore very happy and was one of the best dishes of the night. From the large plates we enjoyed the Crispy Pork Belly ($25.90) served with pickled watermelon and sweet ginger. The pork had a similar texture to the Filipino dish Lechon Kawali, where pork belly is boiled and then later cubed and fried. The lightly pickled watermelon was the perfect foil to cut through the rich pork pieces and whilst I would have hoped for a more balanced pork to watermelon ratio, the watermelon itself was so refreshing and unusual that we continued to pick at it all evening, pairing it with other dishes.
Kwan Brothers had one more surprise for us. If you walk past the kitchen and head towards the toilets, you’ll see a massive door to an industrial freezer. Slide the door back and you’ll find The Hidden Bar, a cosy little back bar that’s perfect for a quiet drink or a nightcap. With dim lights and a luxe fit out, it’s like being in your own private bar. It was chilly when we visited because the aircon was turned down. Why? Because they were hand cutting blocks of ice to make mega ice cubes. Of course they were. Ice is purchased in large rods and then hand cut, first with a chisel and then with a knife, to make ice cubes large enough to only require one per glass. Large cubes mean less surface contact and melt into your expensive cocktail. The large cubes even have a name: The Japanese Cut. Very in keeping with the theme. Once the cubes are cut, the temperature is turned up and the bar is set to receive you and your Crazy 88 crew.
Though Kwan’s has only been open a few weeks, they have already tweaked the menu, removing some dishes and adding new ones based on customer feedback. There’s been some criticism of the pricing and value for money of some dishes and this has been listened to with some prices reduced and other dishes altered or increased in size to give better value. Kwan Brothers is keen to please. There was more than enough food for the four of us so I was able to bring a doggie bag home to Anthony who was, at that stage, in high hopes of a Maroons win.
Kwan Brothers is a fun night out. You probably wouldn’t go on a first date there but it’s a great place to hang out with friends and sample a little bit of this and that. The cookie has spoken. Hai!
*TIFFIN got her Mrs Meers on at Kwan Brothers as a media guest of Lucid Media
45 Alfred St
Fortitude Valley Qld 4006