Hailing from Prahran, the west of Melbourne may as well be Warsaw to me, given I can count the total number of times I’ve been over the bridge on one hand. So to have a reason to get in the car and cross the West Gate is something I embrace as I would Ryan Reynolds. And new Asian-fusion eatery, West of Kin, in Braybrook, is the perfect excuse to hunt down those car keys.
Opened only a few weeks ago, by the couple behind Chapel Street mainstay Kin, Andy and Tram Tran, West of Kin is by no means a Siamese twin to its traditionalist Vietnamese sister – rather, it’s innovative and pioneering (for the west), with the menu an amalgamation of Asian cuisines’ best.
Lost in the wild west
Pulling into a street that’s dominated by auto repairers, I felt a million kilometres away from my Chapel Street heartland. Then when the sat nav told me I’d arrived, but upon a couple of laps of Lacy Street, I still had no clue where West of Kin was, I felt like I’d catapulted myself into an episode of The Amazing Race – where was the route marker?
I must also mention at this point that I’d spent the day at the eye specialist, who had decided to pin me down and put some form of drops in my eyes that caused temporary blindness and my pupils to look like I’d come from an all-nighter at Revolver. Which might also explain how later in the night I ended up in the fridge when I was looking for the bathroom – true story.
Finally, in between the blindness, I spied some festoon lighting and a buzzing beer garden and knew that I had found Phil Keoghan. Tucked into an industrial-type office complex, that weirdly also houses Bernie Finn MP, you wouldn’t expect to find a restaurant that was packed with people, let along the west’s answer to the Asian fusion. But here it is!
Forget the facade
Once inside, you could fool yourself for thinking you were on any of Melbourne’s big-name eat streets. The bar is impressive, the décor is modern and the vibe is fun courtesy of some bangin’ Asian electro house music. Where I was sitting, tucked around in the L-shaped dining space, the outdoor festoon lights were replaced by big Hollywood-style pendants and comfy booths with warm wood panelling. The décor is completed with concrete flooring and white herringbone tiling.
As delicate as a Bolshoi ballerina
The menu is as delicate as a Bolshoi ballerina. Lots of light flavours and freshness; adorned with colourful little flowers and just the right amount of spice. Most importantly, it’s all 100% delicious, which I guess is no surprise given it’s been compiled by consulting chef Sam Pinzone who’s earned his stripes from some of the country’s culinary best – Neil Perry and Jacques Reymond if we want to name drop.
You better not be anti-sharing because West of Kin’s menu is all about the tasting plate, with big long tables facilitating the communal philosophy. For entrée, Jude (my tasting partner for better or worse) and I shared a delicious plate of kelp-cured kingfish, Jiangxi-style chicken bao and prawn toast. The latter came with a confusing crunchy bottom and sesame seed top but would have to be in contention for the best appetizer of 2016, if I was to award food awards. Then for main we split the baby barramundi grilled in banana leaf and ma po tofu pork – both ah-mazing. While we probably didn’t need dessert after all of that, I’m so happy we did because the West of Kin sundae was better than anything you get at Gelato Messina without the lines (controversial!) and the chocolate de lice was indulgence on a spoon.
The cocktail menu is also unexpected, and just as beautifully presented as the food menu.
West of Kin is…
While I may not speak fluent Footscray, I dare say West of Kin is a welcome injection onto the west’s food scene. Everything we tried was up there in the echelon of Melbourne-esque greatness, the service is friendly and last weekend the West of Kin team branched out into brunch, only adding to its appeal. And if you’re not a local, West of Kin is a welcome reason to cross the bridge and join our mate Bernie for some Sichuan-style beef tartare.
I dined as a guest of West of Kin. However, all comments and opinions are my own.
West of Kin | 17 Lacy Street, Braybrook, Victoria
Phone: 03 9317 7553