16 Jun West of Kin, Braybrook
West of Kin is the sister restaurant of Chapel Street’s Kin, a restaurant that focuses more on traditional Vietnamese cuisine. For their second venture, Andy and Tram Tran have decided to break away and go down a more contemporary path that introduces modern twists to the authentic flavours of Asian cuisine. This comes courtesy of consultant chef Sam Pinzone, who’s ex-Rockpool, Jacques Reymond and The Rose Upstairs, and has earned himself two hats from Gault Millau.
The heritage-listed ETA Foods Factory was previously sitting derelict in the middle of this industrial area, before its owners decided to give it a new lease on life. Of course, the facade had to be left untouched, but the interior has been transformed into a very snug and modern eatery.
Outdoor communal seating is available out the front amongst the lush lawn and white pebbles, accentuated with greenery, festoon lighting and gas stand heaters, which are completely necessary for this time of year. Step inside and you’ll encounter an L-shaped floor, with a more casual area complete with a bar on one side, and larger tables and booth seating on the other. It’s a pan-Asian fusion restaurant, but as with the food, they’ve tried to keep in touch with their roots with the furnishings. Much of it has been procured from overseas, including seats and marble that have been hand crafted in Vietnam.
West of Kin recently started in the brunch trade too, but we’re here to try out their new winter menu. The first dish turns out to be my favourite. There’s nothing like congee in cold weather, and West of Kin does a mighty fine one. The green-lipped abalone congee comes with fried shallots, fried garlic, XO and a perfectly runny master stock egg. Texture comes in the form of crispy black rice instead of youtiao (aka Chinese doughnut), and there’s a hint of sweetness from something that tastes like lap cheong. The many textures and nuances of flavour made this a winner of a dish.
West of Kin also prides itself on the freshness of the produce they use. No frozen seafood to be found here, hence their ceviche is at market price. Their kingfish ceviche is flavoured by cho-gochujang, a vinegary condiment based on the spicy Korean gochujang beanpaste. Avruga caviar, almond cream, sea cucumber, ice plant, kelp infused oil, and quail egg yolk are all added to the mix. The usual acidic notes of ceviche are a bit lost in the cho-gochujang, but there’s no denying that the dish is strong on flavour.
Their summer kimchi contains nashi pear, honey and pistachio, and is less spicy than other varieties of kimchi. Not as sugary as the description might make it seem, it has only a small touch of sweetness but it’s still punchy.
A visually striking dish, the imitation squid ink cannelloni is filled with a paste-like mixture of prawn and squid, and served with wasabi pea pursee, yuzu granita and a smoked yoghurt that tastes a bit like hummus. The cannelloni is easily cut through, and the filling is punctuated by a slight bitterness.
The description of the Traditional West of Kin salad is a little short on details, but we are given a mix of cucumber, peanuts, fried shallots, sesame seeds, coriander and Vietnamese mint. There’s a lingering bite on the tongue from either chilli or Szechuan pepper. The protein part of the salad? Tripe and spleen. The pieces are soft and have been cooked in subtle Asian spices. Still, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but that means more for me.
Moving back to the warm dishes, we come to the stir-fried mushrooms with black and white fungus, baby sweetcorn, viola, dap ca and almond snow. It attempts to balance bitter, salty, sweet and sour, with extra earthy undertones from the mushrooms with are oh so juicy.
We then come to the larger dishes. Deep-fried flounder is doused in a black bean sauce and topped with pipis, crunchy wild rice and can nouc. I haven’t had flounder for the longest time and the fish is sweet and delicate, matching well with the delectable sauce. The final savoury dish is the Korean “bossam” with braised pork belly, summer kimchi, seasonal salad and herbs. The 14 hour sous vide pork is suitably succulent, its plainer seasoning the perfect canvas for the ssamjang and house made XO sauce.
We end with the Taiwanese pineapple cake with blueberry coconut cheesecake ice cream and a rich and smooth Valhrona chocolate mousse, which is sharpened by both fresh and freeze dried raspberries. These are demolished all too quickly.
Many locals have been waiting for something like this to open closer to home, but West of Kin’s solid offerings may just entice people to pop over the bridge to the Westside for a visit.
Disclaimer: I was invited as a guest to West of Kin. Opinions expressed here are purely my own and are based on my experience at the time of the visit.
West of Kin
17 Lacy St
Braybrook, VIC, 3019
(03) 9317 7553