Travel FOMO? This restaurant will transport you to Asia
Can't go to Asia? No matter, lockdowns allowing, hotfoot it to Paddington and take yourself on a journey. Slip onto the crimson banquette that runs the length of the wall in the long finger of a restaurant that is Given Kitchen & Bar. Close your eyes and travel, perhaps assisted by an Along the Mekong, a mojito scented with mint, lemongrass and ginger, to a pan-Asian street food dinner cooked over coals in the kitchen a couple of metres from the tables.
This venture - with "crying tiger" tacos of rump with tamarind, grilled corn coated in spicy Korean dukbokki sauce, barbecued chicken with lime and chilli and duck breast doused with red curry - is a sibling enterprise to the popular casual Vietnamese eatery Ngon, which opened in 2019 just a skewer toss further down Given Terrace towards Suncorp Stadium in the inner-western suburb.
Given Kitchen & Bar has a low-key fit-out, with chunky wooden furniture on the pavement, bare tables, artful dried flowers and a laid-back atmosphere aided by a DJ chowing down on a taco while spinning some vinyl - James Brown and Joe Jackson to begin with on the night we're there - just by the kitchen. Our waitress is terrific too, she's cheerful and observant, with interesting, relevant chit chat about the menu.
Given's drinks list features four offerings from Maleny's Brouhaha among its craft beers, a smart wine list with a focus on small independent producers from Europe and Australia, mainly Australian spirits and a wide array of cocktails, including a Vietnamese espresso martini, and mocktails.
The food, which picks and chooses a variety of Asian influences, is a match for its laid-back surrounds, fresh and cheerful and forged from a suite of ingredients that pack a punch. Kinilaw ($6), for example, is a Filipino ceviche of salmon, with green mango and an accent of finger lime gin, piled up becomingly on a crisp wonton wrapper. The duck taco ($6) is similarly appealing with confit meat teamed with pickled carrot, cucumber, shallot and hoisin sauce atop a soft tortilla ready for wrapping. Tofu, chicken, beef and pork skewers are on offer but we share a king tiger prawn version that's brushed in aromatic oil and deliciously retains the smokiness and char of the grill.
Share plates run to an eggplant ($14), that's been hollowed out, the flesh returned mixed with other diced veg, and liberally dosed with garlic, soy and chilli oil. It's a hit as is sliced wagyu rump ($26), from the lower end of the marble scale, dished up with a large puddle of Vietnamese chimichurri. Steamed rice is $5 and various sauces such as peanut and nuoc cham are $2. The people on either side of us ordered squid with green chilli sauce for starters and whole fish fragrant with lemongrass, ginger and turmeric ($26), which induced a case of serious menu envy.
A solitary dessert is on offer: spring rolls stuffed with banana, jackfruit and sweet potato, with dulce de leche and coconut ice-cream. But we were incapable of giving it a test run.
A different team runs breakfast and lunch, with dishes including bubble-tea pannacotta, a banh mi burger and karaage-chicken Benny.
The no-fuss, simple, fresh food is part of an appealing bigger picture of a welcoming establishment where drinks, service and retro music are part of the alchemy.
When you're grounded, being able to opt out and make a journey to the north for the night is a very welcome change.
GIVEN KITCHEN & BAR
257 Given Terrace, Paddington
(07) 2103 5534
Open Wed-Sun 6am-2pm for breakfast and lunch, dinner Wed-Sat from 5pm
Originally published as Travel FOMO? This restaurant will transport you to Asia