Restaurant News

Kwan Brothers, Dark Mofo Winter Feast, Kong, Via Alta

Our restaurant critics' picks of the latest and best eats around the country this week.

Kwan Brothers, Brisbane

Our restaurant critics' picks of the latest and best eats around the country this week, including Kwan Brothers, Dark Mofo Winter Feast, Kong, and Via Alta.

Kwan Brothers
The creative partnership between operator Damian Griffiths, "patron-chef" Jocelyn Hancock and designer Alex Lotersztain shows no sign of running out of puff. Their latest instalment, Kwan Brothers - all mirror-balls and booming beats with a carte that picks and mixes its way through twisted alley bites and Asian street-food classics - is packing them in. Housed in a former noodle factory, it sits alongside Griffiths' Alfredo's Pizzeria, around the corner from Alfred & Constance. Hidden behind the open kitchen is one of the coolest bars in town, a black-painted clandestine drinking den, concealed behind an old coldroom door adorned with hazard tape. The KFC, Kwan's fried chicken, registers highly on the crunch-o-meter, while slices of grass-fed rib fillet teamed with a Korean pear dressing, lettuce and kimchi also get the balance right. Cocktails are as colourful as their Asian mash-up surrounds, with share-numbers like the Kwan in a Million, made on a Japanese whisky base with house-made orgeat, passionfruit syrup and more, packing an aromatic punch. Kwan Brothers, 43 Alfred St, Fortitude Valley, (07) 3251 6588. FIONA DONNELLY

The Dark Mofo Winter Feast
The days are short and the nights are frosty in Tasmania at this time of year but Dark Mofo, the winter festival organised by Hobart's MONA team, revels in it. There's music, naked swims, cinema, and other events but the big moment is this weekend's Winter Feast, a celebration to mark the solstice. There's a different guest chef each night: Jared Ingersoll on Thursday, fellow Sydneysider Alex Herbert on Friday, and, on Saturday night, Duncan Welgemoed, from Bistro Dom in Adelaide. These three all know how to throw a party so we're expecting plenty of fire and tasty dishes. There's also more than 40 local stallholders. We'll be making a beeline for Get Shucked oysters (at their best in winter), Elgaar Farm's raclette melted over tiny potatoes, Bruny Island Food's pork buns (which Ross O'Meara makes using meat from his own pigs), and Lady Hestor's sourdough doughnuts, as well as local craft beers and cider. Oh, and there's also the "Ferris Wheel of Death", which comes with a choir of 30. It's never ordinary when MONA is part of the story. Dark Mofo Winter Feast, Princes Wharf 1, Hobart, Thursday 19 June to Saturday 21 June, 4pm-10pm. Entry $10. SUE DYSON & ROGER MCSHANE

There's a queue, of course, and, as expected at a new Chris Lucas venture (his recent ventures include Chin Chin and Baby), you'll need to wait for a table. So why wait? Kong certainly has buzz, bustle and a kooky playfulness expressed through excellent graphic design and a cartoon-like take on Korean food dosed with a hefty measure of pan-Asian pop and Aussie fusion. The place looks great, the clean-lined, timber-clad dining room with its neat rows of chairs and an open kitchen overhung with green metal lightshades somehow evoking the cool canteen you might find at a freshly cash-injected Silicon Valley start-up. The staff nail it: efficient, right across the (lengthy) menu and working the constant crowd with an impressive personable calm. Those after the punch and fieriness of trad Korean, however, may have come to the wrong place. Kong is a place of ssäm roti rolls and soft, sweet bao filled with pork belly or soft-shell crab. There are sticky sweet chicken wings and raw fish in various guises (including good, mildly spicy kingfish sashimi), barbecued meat, fish and vegetables and a comforting kimchi stew and addictive rice-noodle cakes. There's certainly chilli, pickling, and fermenting in the mix, but there's also peanut butter and sugar and a lot of mayonnaise. Kong never pretends to be the last word on any particular cuisine. It's here for a good time, and, judging by the happy crowds, probably a long time too. Kong, 599 Church St, Richmond, (03) 9427 1307. MICHAEL HARDEN

Via Alta
We defy you to resist the meatballs. Fried crunchy and golden outside, they're juicy, lightly spiced and beefy-porky within. Now, where are we? Ah, yes, Via Alta: what was once High Street Bistro has taken a turn for the northern Italian, with Ormeggio's Alessandro Pavoni as a backer and Alex Keene, one of his chefs, doing the cooking. The cosy clutch of rooms now rings with calls for more from the all-Italian wine list and the sizzle of pieces of chicken and pork turning on the spit, waiting to be served with polenta for dinner. Orzata, a barley soup enriched with pancetta and potato is classic comfort, while the more lavish likes of crescent-moons of pasta filled with duck and sauced with browned sage butter speak of both care and ambition. Winter nights, meet your match. Via Alta, 197 High St, Willoughby, (02) 9958 1110. PAT NOURSE

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