Josephine with the cup she won for having the best food stall at the 2012 Filipino Fiesta at the Melbourne Showgrounds.
Lasang Pinoy (The Filipino Cuisine), 12 Victoria Square, St Albans. Phone: 9364 1174
Whatever hiccups have attended Consider The Sauce’s exploration of Filipino food in the past, we can now happily put them behind us.
And it’s all thanks to a wonderful lady by the name of Josephine, who runs Lasang Pinoy in St Albans.
As much as anything, I think previous encounters went awry through not just sometimes dodgy or unsuitable food but also through a lack of engagement.
Now, I’m not sat saying such engagement was not possible or available in those other times and places.
But I am saying we failed to find it.
And it’s something Josephine supplies heaps of.
She senses right away our interest in her food and her eatery, making sure we are OK with everything and later explaining the dishes we had ordered.
Her restaurant, situated in a court of mixed businesses about a block or so from Alfrieda St, bears still decor reminders of its previous incarnation as a Bosnian place, though Josephine has tempered it all with some colourful Filipino-themed artwork and posters.
For some weeks I’d become increasingly impressed with the pride and humour with which the restaurant had been touting its goodies on its Facebook page, so I am hopeful.
I’d stuck my nose in a couple of times previously, but this time around – with Bennie and good pal/neighbour Rob for company – Team CTS is determined to eat.
And so we do.
We’re delighted to share the dining spaces with a couple of tables of the Filipino family nature and revel right away in Josephine’s hospitality.
After getting a rundown on the contents of the bain marie – and studiously avoiding the more challenging (pork liver) dishes – we settle in for a tasty feast.
Pork BBQ skewers – look black and burnt; are not.
Made with meat marinated in brown sugar, soy, vinegar, salt and pepper, they unsurprisingly taste unlike any pork skewers we’ve previously eaten.
They’re tangy and yummy. They’re also the only part of our spread that Bennie likes, the rest of it being a little too odd for him. He’s excused and granted permission to grab another skewer, pretty much leaving the rest of the meal to Rob and I.
Beef kare kare, made with beef, canned banana blossom that looks like artichoke, eggplant and green beans, is my favourite.
The meat is quite tough but delicious, the broth and vegetables fine. Except for the disappointing eggplant, which seems woefully undercooked by my reckoning.
Pork adobo is a simple dish packed with flavour from soy, vinegar and garlic.
I love the dark, sweetish broth, and the tender meat, too, after easily removing the fat.
Fried tilapia, from Thailand we are told, is fish plain and simple.
Rob and I both like it a lot, making short work of the flesh, which comes away from the bony frame quite easily.
All our meal choices go well with a small side dish of pickles that are both sweet and sour.
There’s quite an array of Filipino desserts on hand, but we restrict ourselves to sampling a single cheese roll. This appears to be another variation on the universal theme of fried dough. It has quite a strange flavour and is not as decadent as it appears.
After talking some more with Josephine, she lets us have a taste of her wonderful iced melon juice before turning Rob and Bennie on to a sugarcane brew of some kind.
I happily sit that one out.
Summarising our meal, Rob nails it – some of it has been unusual for mouths used to the other national flavours of South-East Asia, and maybe we could’ve ordered smarter; but we’ve had a plenty fine enough time of it to be interested in a return visit.
Especially considering the welcome and service.
And in terms of Consider The Sauce and Filipino food, that constitutes a breakthrough.
Even if the food does its level best to defy my photograph attempts to show it in a good light. It tastes better than it looks – honest!
After showing Rob some of our favourite westie haunts, we stop off at Sweet Grass Bonsai Nursery & Cafe in Footscray West for relaxing, chilled-out mocktails – Black Widow for Bennie (he just can’t go past Coke and ice-cream) and tangy Sun Up and Bora Bora for Rob and myself.
What a grand day we’ve had!