If you visit Quan 55 in search of a traditional Vietnamese restaurant, you might just be disappointed. Quan 55 is all that and more.
Wynn Huynh, who owns Quan 55 with her husband Thanh Tram, is the first to tell us that she has never felt confined by expectations. So, you should expect the unexpected!
Born in My Tho in the Mekong Delta, Wynn, the youngest of eleven children, speaks only a little of her trip to Australia aged five as a refugee. To her, the trip is a distant memory of the family travelling in two halves, facing hardship on the journey, the narrative including an unexplainable miracle of survival.
What’s more important is their adaptation to a new land, not just survival but thriving.
Some time after the family settled in Adelaide, Wynn met her husband Thanh, whose family owned a restaurant. Thanh’s mother’s recipes fuelled Wynn’s obsession with Vietnamese food, leading to her desire to share the flavours of her family table with a wider audience.
In the newly-developed Brooke Avenue precinct, Quan’s design is derived from the layout of the former petrol station, its southwest corner location streaming with sunlight in the late afternoon.
More alfresco than indoor, it’s a tropical space, fun and funky with a mix of high and low tables to accommodate modern share plate/date night dining as well as birthday groups and after work drinks scenarios.
Using skills from the couple’s previous hospitality businesses, Wynn is the welcoming face of Quan 55 & Bar.
“I love working here. Being ‘Front of House’ and talking to customers is like a night out for me, an outing,” Wynn tells us, and it shows. Already it’s a local haunt with regulars taking up residence.
It’s been said that migrants are travellers for life, but in truth, so is their food. Wynn’s extended family may provide the cultural background for her restaurant, but the newly-gentrified Chirn Park is the new context for her modern Vietnamese food.
Divided into five sections, the menu covers small ($9 – $12) and large plate dishes ($19 – $27), as well as grilled ($9 – $16), salads and sizzling plates ($16 – $18).
There’s a mix of influence throughout the menu, just as there is in Vietnam itself: the French leaving behind their Pork Terrine, and Chinese showing up with fried rice, dumplings and sizzling plates.
Most dishes, however, are derived from traditional Viet flavours: tasty skewers of Beef wrapped in betel leaves, Grilled squid hoods stuffed with minced pork, noodles and wood ear mushrooms, traditional Clay pot fish in a roe and caramelised shallot sauce and Beef salad lit by the spicy flavours of Vietnam.
With Vietnamese food more known for its flavour than its presentation, Quan 55 is undertaking a continual quest to achieve visual appeal for each dish. For this reason alone, our favourite dishes include two with oppositional textures; both dishes where we’re asked to participate in the final preparation, taking the Sugarcane prawns off their sticks and wrapping in crisp lettuce leaves with mint before dipping in sauce, a similar process to Wynn’s small version of Viet pancakes (crêpes on the menu), also wrapped in lettuce leaves with sprigs of mint.
Whether you choose a heady Asian-inspired Ms Saigon cocktail (rum, fresh sugarcane and cumquat juice) or a crisp grapefruity Maison Aix Rosé to cut through the richness, there’s plenty of choice in the well-stocked bar, though noticeably the beer was Aussie rather than Asian.
We can see a multitude of trips to Quan 55 for Happy Hour, held every Wednesday and Thursday between 5:30pm – 6:30pm when all beers are $5 and all cocktails $10.
Even more, as the weather cools, we’ll be back to sample Wynn’s Pho, made on an aged stock to produce one of the best soups on the coast, as well as the whole free-range chicken cooked in chilli and lemongrass.
There’s always a place on our palate for Asian flavours. Add to it a funky venue and friendly service… Why resist?
4/55 Brooke Ave., Southport (Chirn Park) Ph: 07 5646 7381
Open: Tues – Sun 5pm – 9.30 pm/ 10.30 on Fri, Sat