Kabayan Filipino Restaurant

12 Comments

Shop 10/100 Furlong Rd, Cairnlea. Phone: 8390 1346

PLEASE NOTE: More recent review of revamped Kabayan can be found here.

We’ve spied Filipino groceries in Footscray, Braybrook and St Albans, but we’ve never been to the Philippines, and the only Filipino food we’ve seen ready to buy and eat has been that of two stalls in the food hall of the Market That Doesn’t Allow Cameras.

And that food, to cowardly us, has always looked more than a little daunting.

Happily, we had a brief conversation with Adrian of Food Rehab at the Food Bloggers’ Mad Hatter Spring Picnic regarding Filipino food, him telling us that the stuff can sometimes look ugly but taste terrific. He also suggested some dishes for newbies, but I wasn’t on the ball enough to take notes, and gave us the tip on this fascinating eatery out Deer Park way.

We’re happy to have made its acquaintance, and have had some tasty food there, but are still far from convinced we have any sort of handle on Filippino food.

On a weekend lunch, Bennie and I bypass the bain marie and opt for the simple grilled dishes – he ordering the chicken skewers with garlic fried rice ($10.50) and me the pork chop with ditto accompaniment ($9.50).

It’s already been a long day and we’re Very Hungry, so we top up with a couple of segments of Filippino sausage ($1.50 each) and an interesting looking slab of fried eggplant ($5).

Our main dishes are tasty but plain. Bennie’s chicken is beaut – and has a distinct Japanese teriyaki sweetness about it. My two pork chops are a little less tender, but no less toothsome. I suspect the charred rind and fat is meant to be treated as simply part of the meal deal, but I fastidiously set it aside. The rice is OK, but nothing particularly notable.

These two platters are very similar to the meat and rice dishes we find in Viet restaurants, or the Hainan chicken rice and nasi lemak of Malay places, with similar trimmings of cucumber and tomato slices but much less seasoning or spiciness.

Bennie gobbles up the smallish sausage segments, but I find them dull.

In some ways, the eggplant is the star of the day. What I presume is half a large eggplant sliced in half lengthways has been flattened and coated an extremely eggy batter. It all tastes good, and has that delectable smoky tang we associate with eggplant dips of Middle Eastern cuisines. It’s hefty for a side dish – something like a vegetarian steak, in fact – and seems to lend credence to the “ugly but good” theory.

As we amble away quite satisfied, Bennie opines: “That was like Asian food but not really!”

I know what he means.

We would have liked to have known more about the food we were ordering and eating (including the correct Filipino names), but the staff were busy and, perhaps, a little shy or taken aback by our interest. However, whatever our disappointment with our experience here, we are happy to confess it surely has at least as much to do with our ignorance of Filipino food as anything else.

Next time, we’ll revert to bain marie mode. On a previous visit, I’d had a ridiculously oily but otherwise awesome beef stew with spuds and carrot in a sweetish red gravy, and a minced pork concoction with peas and potato. Served with plain rice, the combo cost $9.

On the day of our grilled lunch visit, the bain marie hosts an interesting looking dish of beef tongue with a mushroom sauce, another of beef on the bone in a peanut sauce and a couple of fish dishes.

Kabayan Filipino Restaurant on Urbanspoon

12 thoughts on “Kabayan Filipino Restaurant

  1. Being a Filipino living in melbourne, I find it difficult to find any (if at all) good Filipino restaurants. I’ve also walked passed this place a couple of times but I have yet to try. I guess I have my mum to cook Filipino food for me but I’m happy to share any recipes 🙂 I am happy to see people are starting to get interested in Filipino cusine, hopefully it’ll make it into the mainstream soon.

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    • Hi Cherrie! Thanks for dropping by! Check it out – I’d be interested to know what you think. As I say, our experience was no doubt lessened by our ignorance of your food culture and hesitation about getting out of our comfiort zone. Mind you, mums alway rock anyway!

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  2. Glad you got to try the BBQ at least. Unfortunately, it’s the only one I’ve been that is half decent.

    Another tip: go to the Filipino Fiesta, usually held 21 and 22 November. Last yesr it was held at Flemmington Racecourse. The food there is much better. Having said that, nothing beats home cooked Flipino food of course 🙂

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  3. i came cross your blog searching whereabouts are Filipino restaurants here in Melbourne,sad to say there are very few. I used to live in Sydney for four years and now moved to Melbourne, and still the haunt is on for my own cuisine.Cooking is my profession,but i dont cook Filipino food professionally yet my kitchen at home is where i dish up my own cuisine. I love that one that you said “That was like asian cuisine,but not really” .That is because Philippines was colonized by several countries (japanese,spanish,americans)and this has a great effect on how we cook our food. Spanish mostly has a huge effect in our own cuisine. I really feel that there is a need to put up a good Filipino restaurants here in Australia,and this will be my own goal someday.

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    • Hi Gill! I hope you get to live your dream! The two reviews we’ve done on Filipino places – Kabayan and Kowloon House – and Filipino food in general get hit by a lot of search engine traffic. Interesting, eh? Far more than, say, Vitenamese or Indian.

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    • Hi Gill,

      I am a restaurateur and in the Philippines at the moment. I am very interested in opening a Filipino themed restaurant/bar/cafe in Melbourne but I have a very specific idea of how this could be made popular with the people of Melbourne and also how to make it profitable. I would love to discuss ideas with you, perhaps you would be interested in being a part of it. I am in Cebu and particularly looking to specialise in this regional cuisine. Cheers JON

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  4. Jon,
    Im really looking forward to the opening of your filipino restaurant/bar/cafe! There isnt enough places around. I was in Cebu earlier this year and I miss it so much! Having a place which will specialise in this region would be great. I will definately be a regular 😀

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  5. Hi there – newbie to your site.

    The eggplant you had is an eggplant omelet. It is smoky because it had been roasted over open fire, peeled, flattened(squashed/mushed) and dipped in egg batter to be pan fried. Cumbersome to make but yes, delish. A lot of locals eat it with catsup and it is a meal in itself.

    Filipino food is not as straightforward as other Asian cuisine that’s why it leaves a lot of foreigners “huh?” or “yuk”. Presentation is always an issue but as previously mentioned, it tastes better than it looks. You have to understand that the Filipino outlets are mostly in for the money, ergo, OK but nothing to write home about. Good Filipino/Pinoy (not, never Filo – excuse me!) food is a result of cooking with love and good, fresh ingredients….

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