Had 2020 gone differently (that is, if COVID-19 never materialised), Cameron and Jordan Votan might have opened an Italian restaurant last week. Instead, the owners of beloved Fortitude Valley eateries Happy Boy, Snack Man and Brisbane City bistro Greenglass are exploring the vast epicurean expanse that is South Asian cuisine with their newly launched concept, Kid Curry. The origins of Kid Curry are firmly etched into Brisbane’s food lore – what started as a takeaway-only response to the city’s widespread hospitality shutdown blossomed into a popular pop-up eatery and now a fully-fledged restaurant with a bricks-and-mortar home of its own. Thinking back on the time before COVID, Cameron recalls a desire to continue the work that the team started with their Spring Hill locale italian food restaurant, even going so far as to import a pizza oven from Europe and research dough recipes in case a suitable site materialised. When the pandemic hit the team linked up with hotshot chef Tom Swapp (formerly of hatted Yandina destination restaurant Spirit House) to help spearhead the creation of the first iteration of Kid Curry, a concept through which the team could showcase a taste of the diverse culinary realms of Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent. The local response was immediate, with Tom cooking more food in one night than any service he’d worked in his career to date. It was apparent from the outset that Brisbane eaters were enamoured with Kid Curry’s slightly left-of-centre interpretations of various curries, from Thai/Burmese hang lae and Indonesian rendang to Indian kumar ki subzi and butter chicken. This response, coupled with a shared desire to dig deeper into the fertile ground that South Asian cuisine (essentially everything south of China) occupied, meant that Kid Curry was worthy of its own location. All the Votans needed was a spot for it to call home.
In May last year Kid Curry evolved into a pop-up restaurant at Snack Man, offering a slightly expanded version of the takeaway menu for most of the remainder of 2020. Not far into 2021, the shopfront next to Snack Man (previously home to streetwear store PROJECT.) became available. The Votans – who had long eyed the space as a potential expansion site – jumped at the chance to nab it. Although small, the site showed promise as a restaurant space and allowed the crew to create a dining hub of their own on East Street. The first item on the fit-out agenda was ensuring that Kid Curry was in sync aesthetically with its neighbouring eateries while still feeling new and different. Tasteful minimalism – a hallmark of the group’s interior approach since Happy Boy’s formative days in Spring Hill – forms the inspirational foundation for Kid Curry’s look. Like Happy Boy’s concrete-heavy palette and Snack Man’s moody brutalism, Kid Curry’s simple timber interior allows food and wine to take centre stage. For the Votans, it’s the people that colour a room, not any decorative knick-knacks. Wood panelling on the walls and polished-concrete floors draw attention to the low-set pass and open kitchen, while a scattering of simple black tables affords enough room for 45 patrons to dine without restrictions. Although Kid Curry is smaller capacity wise that its siblings, the Votans have long-term plans to add a covered outdoor dining space in front of the restaurant, gradually growing in scope at a manageable pace.
When Kid Curry softly opened in late August, it debuted with a set menu that served as an introductory statement of intent. This week the venue is unveiling its full offering, which brings the team’s inspirations into sharp relief. The origin of dishes, migration of flavours and cross-pollination of ideas to and from India, Indonesia and everywhere in between (and how each region makes a dish its own) is a point of fascination for Cameron, Jordan and Tom – all avowed food anthropologists and self-professed food nerds. Kid Curry’s border-hopping debut menu showcases share-worthy riffs on dishes that go way beyond curry – think grilled dishes, seafood delights and vegetarian eats, with previously featured favourites retooled and given new life. Raw and cool dishes like kinilaw (Filipino-style ceviche with coconut milk and lime juice) and yum ma muang (Thai green-mango salad with chilli, dried shrimp and cashews) segue into smaller plates like seekh kebab (Indian flame-grilled lamb skewers with pickled onions and mint chutney) and the ayam goreng sandwich – a Thai-style fried-chicken sandwich with house pickle and sambal. Vegetarian eaters will no doubt gravitate towards pak boong fi dang (wok-fried greens with yellow bean sauce) and dudhi chana nu shak (chana dal with bottle gourd), while pescetarians can eye off pla yang (butterflied grilled fish with chilli jam) and kua kling (dry-fried king salmon). The meat section includes Kid Curry’s famous smoked-tomato butter chicken as well as ayam bakar (grilled chicken marylands with sambal and kecap manis) and roghan josh (slow-cooked lamb in rich spiced gravy). Accompaniments include flaky paratha, pappadums, raita and chicken rice, while a punchy dessert selection features three sweet finishers. Cameron – a seasoned oenophile – has curated a succinct wine list that features drops with body that can stand up to spice-laden dishes. Wines with acid and minerality act as palate refreshers with every mouthful, with dry German rieslings, chenin blanc, cortese, pet nats, rosés and orange wines featuring in abundance. As tannin-heavy wines don’t play well with spice, only a few bold reds feature. That being said, there are plenty of light and chilled reds worth sampling. Finally, a series of boozy and alcohol-free highballs are refreshing sips for anyone looking to quench some spice heat.
Kid Curry is now open to the public. Head to the Stumble Guide for more info.