We went vego only in our last year or so of living in Brisbane. We'd spent almost a decade carelessly ordering the chicken at any old restaurant before seeking out all-veg venues like Squirrels, Pu Kwong and Kuan-Yin Tea House. Not discovering Kuan-Yin sooner was easily our biggest regret, and now I try to squeeze in lunch there every time I'm back in town.
Kuan-Yin has popped up in two of our highlights-of-Brisbane posts, but a good four years have passed and it really has earned a stand-alone review. It has a casual and friendly atmosphere and incredibly daggy fit-out; the fake wood-paneled walls are decorated with laminated photos of the food, and most of the chairs are flimsy fold-ups.
To their credit, the photos seem to be updated and I noticed a new menu on this visit. It's dominated by mock meats, including oddities like oyster omlette, takoyakii and calamari along with the more common sweet sour pork and spicy chicken. The mock-averse might find something to like amongst the entrees (dumplings, sweet potato wedges, phanton chips) and the soups. Vegan dishes are marked and are the clear majority; gluten-free options are unclear (although their dessert of the week was a flourless chocolate brownie!).
I really struggle to look past the bento ($10.50). My 'veg pepper salt fish rice' contained light and crispy-coated mock fish, salty miso beans, curry potatoes and carrots, a lightly dressed tomato wedge and a few shreds of pickled vegetables, steamed rice and some slightly tired fruit slices to finish up. There's just something about a variety-packed bento box! So fun, so satisfying.
Kuan-Yin is a tea house, so there are hot teas, milk teas, flavoured teas, frappes, juices and 'special drinks'. Some have fabulously special names, like the Pink Loving, Summer Hot, Black Mountain and Coconut Flirtation (I can personally recommend a Coconut Flirtation). There's a soy option for their milk teas too. The grapefruit green tea ($4.50) took me by surprise - it seemed to be made of actual juice, not flavoured sugar syrup! - and a scoop of lychee jelly ($0.50) offset its bitter pithiness perfectly.
I received quick and courteous service, and I would probably tolerate much worse before my affection and (somewhat misplaced) nostalgia for Kuan-Yin were damaged.
We've previously posted about Kuan-Yin here and here. It's been blogged more recently and just as positively on Living du jour, Leong Ming En Food Photography, Soy Bien, Vegeterranean, The Urban Princess Blog and Live Blissful; only Edesian Feast is unimpressed.
Kuan-Yin Tea House
198 Wickham St, Fortitude Valley Qld
(07) 3252 4557
veg snacks and meals $4.50-14.90
Accessibility: Kuan-Yin has a wide, flat entrance and generally well spaced tables. I ordered at the table, helped myself to cutlery in the corner, paid at a low counter and didn't visit any toilets.