Mama Lor Restaurant & Bakery, 187 Watton Street, Werribee. Phone: 973 106 78
Some newspaper coverage at the start of the year tried hard to posit food from the Philippines as a sort of next-big-thing in Melbourne.
We reckon that’s something of a stretch.
Nevertheless, out here in the west there ARE three new or newish Filipino food places – in Burnside, West Footscray (yet to open) and Werribee.
The latter is the subject of this story.
Consider The Sauce has a somewhat ropey history with Filipino food, as long-time readers may recall.
A lot of that has had to do with bain maries – and the supremely unappealing, limp and ugly food that frequently resides in them.
There’s a bain marie at Mama Lor, but that’s only a side interest here, one for quickie lunches and takeaways.
For this eatery is a full-service real-deal restaurant, a sister for the identically named establishment in Sydney.
On the Friday night we visit, they’re well into a protracted “soft opening” period.
It’s all very happy, full and bustling, with the staff zipping around and taking care of business well.
Does a meal with friends, one of whom is from the Phillippines, change the CTS outlook in regards to Filipino food?
Yes, mostly, with one mis-step detailed below.
Our two “barbeque” pork skewers ($3 each) are perfect, juicy, smoky and lip-smackingly fine.
Kare kare ($19) is a beef stew in a peanutty sauce, with green beans and eggplant on board for the journey, too.
There’s some hefty chunks of good meat in there, and the shrimp paste on the side adds flavour interest.
Been there, done that – usually served from the aforementioned bain maries.
But we go with Maria’s suggestion.
This dish, amapalaya with dilis ($15), certainly looks the part – vibrant green, NOT swimming in some gray gravy, studded with onion, anchovies and tomato.
Sadly, it’s awful – or, at the least, not to my taste.
But even Maria screws up her face in distaste.
Bitter melon that’s TOO bitter for a born-and-bred Philippines native?
Chicken lomi ($15) is much, much better.
This chicken noodle outing, which appears to be loosely based on the familiar viscous soups of Chinese heritage, is stuffed with chicken, still-crunchy cabbage and all sorts of other goodies.
The highlight of our night – for myself certainly, but also I strongly suspect for my friends – is the lechon belly/roast pork (we go the large for $23, but it’s also available in $12 and $45 sizes).
This is wonderful – and a dish to which most tables in the place appear to be gravitating.
Either that or the chicken equivalent.
The roast pork is plentiful and devilishly flavoursome, with only the very meatiest pieces displaying any dryness.
The equally plentiful crackling is superb, upping the sin quotient by another several notches.
The sauce on the side?
I thought it would be gravy of some kind – but it turns out to be a nice, grainy apple sauce.
It goes well with the pig meat, but it would’ve been nice for it to be warm. Though maybe cold is the tradition here.
It’s real nice to see a restaurant proper of Philippines heritage open up in Werribee and others also on the go or soon coming across the west.
See the Mama Lor website – including menu – here.