I'm really loving all the ventures that are part of the Alfred and Constance group due to their fun-never-ends philosophy. Kitchens close late and their bars and restaurants are open on public holidays too. It gives a sense of reliability. When Garthritis told me about their new Asian street food development Kwan Brothers, I was immediately interested.
The online reviews are a bit up and down so I hesitated about going but Hien and I walked past one afternoon and the decor looked so funky, even from the outside, that I decided I had to make up my own mind. We went there as a largeish group last Friday night. Due to my poor organisation skills, I didn't make a booking and I was also the last one to arrive. Garthritis managed to get us all a big table towards the back of the venue that we shared with another some other diners.
The fitout is craaazy. The first thing I noticed was the big street art mural across the wall. It's amusing to say the least, with the subtly racist graphics and 'Engerlish' phrases. As an Asian, I didn't find any of this the least bit offensive and I hope no one else does either.
The menu, like in other A and C bar hybrid restaurants features some funky cocktails, including giant shared bowls. For food, you can choose between shared tapas plates or larger dishes.
Because our group was so big, we split into pairs to order and share. I shared with my bestie Kat, which was perfect because we have such similar wavelengths in food. Within 5 minutes, we had decided exactly what we wanted to order. We went for 2 share plates and a large salad.
Geisha colada - vodka, strawberry syrup, house-made cream of coconut, pineapple juice, demerara syrup
Before I even looked at the menu, I needed a drink. I just got one of what Kat was having because it looked and tasted amazing. Our first cocktail of the night was called 'Geisha Colada' and had a gorgeous creamy sweetness that made me think of dessert in a glass. It's like a pina colada with the addition of strawberry.
Fried chicken bao bao - fried chicken bao sliders, cucumber, coriander and chili lime mayo
The first of our food orders that arrived was the fried chicken bao bao. The fried chicken bao bao was the item I knew I wanted as soon as I looked at the menu. They arrived as two, palm sized folded steamed buns with crispy chicken and creamy mayonnaise. These kind of buns always remind me of The Bun Mobile because they were the first of the kind that I had tried. These were delicious and I want to try all the other flavours.
Shaking beef salad - green papaya, chili, ruby grapefruit and peanuts
We wanted to be relatively 'healthy' (so we could justify all the naughty cocktails) and selected the large serve of beef salad. I'm glad we did because it was very tasty. The grated papaya had a lovely crunchy texture and the sauce was a perfect balance of sweet, salty and sour.
Tiki pork belly skewers - coal fired Berkshire pork with mandarin soy and chili caramel and pineapple
My least favourite of the three dishes that Kat and I chose was the pork skewer. It was still pretty good but the pork was on the tough side and I don't know if I like the pinepple pairing. It was a bit too out of place for me.
I also snapped some photos of other plates near me.
Wok tossed beef and rice noodle - shitake mushroom, garlic shoot, chili and crispy fried shallot (skewer isn't part of it)
Beef short rib - braised in Kwan's 5 spice mix
Crispy pork belly - with pickled watermelon and sweet ginger
When Kat and I finished our first cocktails, we decided to share one of their scorpion bowls. This arrived in a big clay donut vessel.
Icky thump scorpion bowl - gin, peach liqueur, house-made orgeat, fresh lemon juice, Midori, Absinthe mist
The centre had a live flame, making it look very impressive. It was probably a coincidence but the lights dimmed at that very moment, adding to the theatrical feel. They suggest sharing this cocktail between four (and indeed, four straws were provided) but being the alcoholics that we are, Kat and I sipped this entire bowl between the two of us. It was more potent than our Geisha Coladas but still yummy.
I don't agree with the bad reviews of Kwan Brothers. I suppose if you're expecting it to be like an Asian eatery in terms of price, quantity and authenticity, you are bound to be disappointed. Thoughts like "I can get the same food in Sunnybank for half the price" might be accurate but miss the point. Kwan Brothers isn't marketed as a cheap Asian eatery. It's a funky, trendy bar and yes, that's reflected in the menu prices but not to an unjustifiable point. I loved the atmosphere and overall just had a great time. In these kinds of places, I'm most let down if the food is also inedible or if the service is poor. In our case, the food was tasty and we had friendly staff who served the food and drinks up quickly.