25th April 2016
17 Lacy Street
Braybrook, VIC 3019
The western suburbs of Melbourne are known for a lot of things, and refined modern Asian fusion cuisine is definitely not one of them. With citizens hailing from literally hundreds of different countries, and with something like 50% of the population born overseas, the western suburbs is a vibrant hub of authentic ethnic foods. Needless to say, most homesick expats are more concerned with recreating the food they grew up with, and much less so with organic nouveau versions of their childhood dishes.
West of Kin, on the other hand, saw that gap in the market, and rushed to fill it. But is there a market for this sort of thing in Braybrook? Well, when we showed up on a Friday night, the whole restaurant was booked out, and we witnessed several walk-ins being relegated to the (admittedly lovely) beer garden out front. Now what does that say to you?
Though unusual, the interior of West of Kin was absolutely gorgeous. Decked out almost exclusively in different shades of timber and adorned with fern fronds, this dark restaurant with soaring ceilings felt warm and natural. Best of all, we were seated in these indecently comfortable booths that looked like cushioned park benches. It’s all the good things about being outdoors without actually having to go outside.
I started the meal with the Dragonfly Mocktail. This sparkly combination of lychee, citrus, and crushed mint is like a summer holiday in a mug, and was possibly the most delicious mocktail I’ve ever had.
Our first course was a selection of nibbles under the category ‘Taste’ – small bite-sized dishes reminiscent of tapas. The Kelp Cured Kingfish ($10) were thick and plump, the fresh fish topped with a smoky oyster sauce and house-made spicy gochujang.
I’ve always been a bit leery with tartare, but luckily the Sichuan Style Beef Tartare ($11) was nothing but delicious. The tender diced beef was mixed through with a flavoursome combination of black pepper, chilli, and peppercorns, and topped with a creamy quail yolk.
The New Style Son In Law Eggs ($10) were fantastically decadent. Inside the light coating of batter was an egg with a rich, runny yolk, served with a dollop of kimchi mayo on top. It all sat on a bed of sticky rice, ready to soak up the sauces.
Finishing up the round of entrees was the Yunnan Style Lamb Ribs ($11). Rich and fatty, these tender pieces of lamb were glazed with a sweet soy, and slow-cooked until the meat fell off the bones.
I had been enviously eying the Baby Barramundi Grilled in a Banana Leaf ($MP) the next table was having, so it was lucky that it was on our menu too. The grilling had left the fish smoky but delicate, and it was delicious topped with the house-made XO sauce, which was chock-full of dried shrimp and caramelised fried scallions. Served on a side was a bowl of rice garnished with daisy petals, and some house made pickles.
Equally as enviable was the Master Stock Shredded Duck, Egg Noodles ($28). This was one step (or ten) up from the classic dish; the duck was so, so good, braised in its own juices until tender and aromatic with five-spice. Mixed with chewy egg noodles, a handful of fresh herbs, and the cutest pair of fried quail eggs, this was a decadent take on the traditional dry egg noodle dish.
Although simple, you can never go wrong with the Chocolate De Lice ($12). The bar of ganache made with dark cocoa was smooth and indulgent, accompanied by the timeless garnishes of sea salt and plump forest berries.
My affections however will always lie with the Spiced Panna Cotta ($12). This had the consistency of silken tofu made with custard, its rich creaminess given an oriental edge by the warm, spicy saffron syrup. It was one of the most perfect panna cottas I’ve ever had.
In a part of town where innovative dining has never been at the forefront, West of Kin has done remarkably well. And they clearly know their market – although plenty of creative license has been taken, the food is still rooted in Asia to provide a degree of comfort for the locals. I will admit that the prices are on the expensive side… but so is parking in the city.
Rating: 14/20 – west of keen.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.
Sweet and Sour Fork dined as a guest of West of Kin.