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Kwan’s Kitchen: A World Apart

Fine Chinese dining in a dream made reality



 



Once upon a time, a Chinese man went on a journey, and wound up in an idyllic, peaceful hideaway, removed from the worries of the outside lands and feeling like its own little world. That’s the legend of “The Peach Blossom Spring,” a famous Chinese story (written versions date back nearly 1,600 years), which serves as inspiration for the construction of new OKC restaurant Kwan’s Kitchen. There’s also a degree to which it describes chef Pak Kwan himself and the space he’s created – though in the original tale, the fabulous land is a secret and unable to be found again, while visiting Kwan’s is as easy as heading to Memorial and May. Also, the food is better in this story.
 

The impact of the space is undeniable, though: Architect Wister Wu has helped to create an environment like no other. He told us the story of Peach Blossom Spring – a version of which is depicted on the light shades – and said his intention throughout was to channel that feeling inside this space. The result is its own little world, complete with heavens above (constellations of small blue lights glittering against a black “sky”) and the rich earth tones and texture of wood below. The restaurant’s entrance represents a village square in miniature, complete with lucite-covered koi pond, moon gate, flowering trees and glowing paper lanterns. No element is added randomly or haphazardly, either – the waterfall symbolizing refreshment and abundance is placed against the east wall, in accordance with proper feng shui.

The degree of detail at every level is genuinely impressive; on a large scale, individual sections of seating have different vibes, such as the northern room whose bamboo shadowbox gives it an outdoor feel; and closer looks reveal an intricate, slightly raised pattern on the upholstery, iconic blue-and-white willow pattern dishes used as wall hangings and napkins folded into lotuses atop each minimalist, square white plate.

Great attention to details blended into harmonious wholes is an apt description of much of the menu, as well. Chef Kwan learned his trade in the massive city of Guangzhou and spent a decade in Belgium perfecting his art – you might have had his food at Fung’s Kitchen here in OKC, but this is the culmination of his personal lifelong dream, and a chance to really stretch himself and show off what he can do in his own kitchen.

 


 

Putting your own personal stamp on a cuisine that’s been around for thousands of years might seem intimidating, but Kwan pointed out that Guangzhou is a port, and not very far from Hong Kong. Flavors from around the world have been blending there for centuries as sailors, merchants and other travelers come and go, so it has no single unchanging tradition for him to uphold. In working to maintain authentic influences while innovating, his goal is to get people to try something new and slightly unfamiliar, and to find a flavor combination they might not have chosen for themselves. So while the menu does include familiar-sounding dishes along the lines of Kung Pao Chicken and Mongolian Beef, you shouldn’t hesitate to experiment with something a little further afield; specialties such as the Champagne Sweet and Sour Chicken, Peking Shrimp and Abalone Fried Rice served in a lotus leaf are delicately flavored and beautifully balanced. And you can’t go wrong by starting with a cup of savory bisque – the duck version might be even better than the shrimp.

I would recommend one particular entree, though: Kwan described the Sea Bass as iconic, the sort of dish high-ranking diplomats would be served at an official state dinner. The fish is immersed in oil for several days before cooking, resulting in a crispy-outside-tender-within texture I’ve never encountered before. It’s a marvel.

Whatever you select will have exceptional presentation, too. Chef Kwan regularly uses his impressive knife skills to carve vegetable garnish into surprisingly intricate lilies, rabbits or other shapes, purely for the sake of adding an aesthetic grace note to the dish.

 


 

It’s clear, I hope, that this is not a hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant specializing in rice, meat and sticky sauces for takeout. Yet the price point is not prohibitive, and lunch entrees are $8 apiece. “We’re trying to bring fine dining on a casual level,” says general manager Don Kerr. “Not skimp on the ‘fine,’ but give the experience to everyone.”

As far as I’m concerned, it’s an experience worth having – and in the future I’ll be glad this is an enchanting world I can visit again and again. 

 

The restaurant’s sigil is the Flying Horse of Gansu, a bronze sculpture created around 1,800 years ago that is now a treasured cultural relic. The steed, pictured in mid-gallop and treading on a flying bird, carries the imagery of outrunning gravity – Kwan chose it as a symbol both of Chinese identity and a more universal expression of enthusiasm and joy.

 

One other sign that this is no ordinary Americanized takeout spot is Kwan’s focus on the bar. They offer a suite of signature cocktails – the Fox Spirit is particularly lovely – and local brewer Vanessa House is even working on a special ginger-lemongrass lager to serve as a house beer for this establishment. It will be available in local stores, but the only place to find it on tap is right here in Kwan’s Kitchen.

 

► Kwan’s Kitchen

 

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Calendar

September 2019

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Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
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Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
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Cost: Free

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Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405-815-9995
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A Texas State of Mind, featuring the art of Larry G. Lemons of Nocona, TX, is coming to the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK.  A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 - 6:30...

Cost: $4-$6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
www.onthechisholmtrail.com
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Forms Through Language: an exhibition by San Francisco Artist Gyöngy Laky. On view September 12 – October 31. Free and open to the public. Join us for Laky's Artist Reception on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
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View map »


Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

More information

A Texas State of Mind, featuring the art of Larry G. Lemons of Nocona, TX, is coming to the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK.  A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 - 6:30...

Cost: $4-$6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
www.onthechisholmtrail.com
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View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Toni Hopper
Website »

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Cost: $15

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Telephone: 405.236.3100
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Forms Through Language: an exhibition by San Francisco Artist Gyöngy Laky. On view September 12 – October 31. Free and open to the public. Join us for Laky's Artist Reception on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
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View map »


Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

More information

A Texas State of Mind, featuring the art of Larry G. Lemons of Nocona, TX, is coming to the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK.  A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 - 6:30...

Cost: $4-$6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
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View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Toni Hopper
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Telephone: 405.236.3100
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Cost: $15

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Telephone: 405.236.3100
Website »

More information

Forms Through Language: an exhibition by San Francisco Artist Gyöngy Laky. On view September 12 – October 31. Free and open to the public. Join us for Laky's Artist Reception on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
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View map »


Telephone: 405-815-9995
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A Texas State of Mind, featuring the art of Larry G. Lemons of Nocona, TX, is coming to the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK.  A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 - 6:30...

Cost: $4-$6

Where:
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Cost: $4-$6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
www.onthechisholmtrail.com
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View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Toni Hopper
Website »

More information

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Cost: $15

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: 405.236.3100
Website »

More information

Forms Through Language: an exhibition by San Francisco Artist Gyöngy Laky. On view September 12 – October 31. Free and open to the public. Join us for Laky's Artist Reception on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

More information

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Cost: free

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Sponsor: Gwinner Studios Ltd. Co.
Telephone: 405-740-9618
Contact Name: Jessica Gwinner
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Produced and Organized, Gwinner Studios Ltd. Co. presents an all-Oklahoma, all-Original Music festival located in Bricktown. This is a free event for the community, featuring Oklahoma-original...

Cost: free

Where:
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Oklahoma City, OK


Sponsor: Gwinner Studios Ltd. Co.
Telephone: 405-740-9618
Contact Name: Jessica Gwinner
Website »

More information

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Cost: Adult: $20 Seniors and Children: $15

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Sponsor: Oklahoma River Cruises
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Cost: 40.00

Where:
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201 N Walker Ave
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View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma City Rep
Telephone: 405-594-8300
Website »

More information

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Cost: $35 or $50. Prices do not include fees.

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Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


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Telephone: 405-594-8300
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Telephone: 405-594-8300
Website »

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The Musical Swings is an interactive public art installation featuring 10 swings that each activate a different note, allowing participants to make music, connect to one another and have a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bicentennial Park
201 North Walker Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma City Community Foundation
Telephone: 405-606-2922
Contact Name: Kasey Gardner
Website »

More information

Forms Through Language: an exhibition by San Francisco Artist Gyöngy Laky. On view September 12 – October 31. Free and open to the public. Join us for Laky's Artist Reception on...

Cost: Free

Where:
Artspace at Untitled
1 NE 3rd st
Oklahoma City, OK  73104
View map »


Telephone: 405-815-9995
Website »

More information

Featuring more than 70 works by French and European masters such as Degas, Manet, Monet, Rousseau and Van Gogh, this exhibition celebrates Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gift of...

Cost: $15

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: 405.236.3100
Website »

More information

A Texas State of Mind, featuring the art of Larry G. Lemons of Nocona, TX, is coming to the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Duncan, OK.  A meet the artist reception will be 3:30 - 6:30...

Cost: $4-$6

Where:
Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
1000 Chisholm Trail Parkway
www.onthechisholmtrail.com
Duncan, OK  73533
View map »


Sponsor: Chisholm Trail Heritage Center
Telephone: 580.252.6692
Contact Name: Toni Hopper
Website »

More information

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Cost: $15

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View map »


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Telephone: 580-484-1682
Contact Name: Angela Bruner
Website »

More information

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Cost: $59.95

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Sponsor: The Dinner Detective
Telephone: 866.496.0535
Website »

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Cost: Free

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Sheraton Oklahoma City Downtown Hotel
1, N Broadway Ave
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View map »

More information

Produced and Organized, Gwinner Studios Ltd. Co. presents an all-Oklahoma, all-Original Music festival located in Bricktown. This is a free event for the community, featuring Oklahoma-original...

Cost: free

Where:
Bricktown
Oklahoma City, OK


Sponsor: Gwinner Studios Ltd. Co.
Telephone: 405-740-9618
Contact Name: Jessica Gwinner
Website »

More information

Produced and Organized, Gwinner Studios Ltd. Co. presents an all-Oklahoma, all-Original Music festival located in Bricktown. This is a free event for the community, featuring Oklahoma-original...

Cost: free

Where:
Bricktown
Oklahoma City, OK


Sponsor: Gwinner Studios Ltd. Co.
Telephone: 405-740-9618
Contact Name: Jessica Gwinner
Website »

More information

The evening Cocktail Cruise offers stunning views of the downtown skyline, the Boathouse District & Finish Line Tower, the Wheeler Ferris wheel and, quite possibly, an amazing...

Cost: Adult: $20 Seniors and Children: $15

Where:
Regatta Park Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd
Oklahoma City, OK  73119
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma River Cruises
Telephone: 405-702-7755
Contact Name: Che Loessberg
Website »

More information

EVERY BRILLIANT THING strikes a delicate balance between sobering loss and cathartic laughter as it recounts a life lived in the shadow of suicide.  By Duncan Macmillan with Jonny Donahoe,...

Cost: 40.00

Where:
Civic Center Music Hall
201 N Walker Ave
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma City Rep
Telephone: 405-594-8300
Website »

More information

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Cost: $5

Where:
La Brasa
1310 NW 25th ST
Oklahoma , OK  73106
View map »


Sponsor: Pauleen
Contact Name: Pauleen

More information

La Brasa & Pauleen present Bollywood Night at La Brasa this Saturday, September 21st.  This is one of the first Hindi Music events to happen in Oklahoma City and anyone can come...

Cost: $5

Where:
La Brasa
1310 NW 25th St
Oklahoma City , OK  73105
View map »


Telephone: 405-524-2251
Contact Name: Pauleen
Website »

More information

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