Chibog West Footscray, 553 Barkly Street, West Footscray.
After a pretty typical birth involving maddening red tape and other delays, Chibog has arrived in West Footscray.
From the crowds we’ve observed when driving by, it’s a hit – one that adds even more diversity to an already colourful strip.
The bosses – chef Alex Yin, Janine Barican and Thuan Le – tells us that punters have been rolling up from local neighbourhoods, but also from such popular Filipino locales as Cairnlea and even from right across town.
The long dining room is an attractive space in which to relax and we find the service superb and the staff engagingly friendly.
Nat and I hit ’em on a Tuesday, have our way with the menu in quite an extensive fashion and enjoy a wonderful meal.
This is among the very best Filipino food I have tried – and clearly the best presented.
And about as far from bain marie slop as it is possible to get.
Price-wise, don’t be expecting the ultra low prices and huge serves you may get from other Asian food genres.
At Chibog, things work more along the lines of a classy Thai restaurant in terms of pricing.
But even then, we have no problem with our final bill – pretty good value, actually.
Chibog, BTW, means “let’s eat”!
Kinilaw ($14) is tuna ceviche with coconut, cucumber, caviar and red onion.
It’s as silky smooth and sexy as you’d expect.
And gone, sadly, in a flash.
Ukoy ($9) are wonderful!
They’re deep-fried fritters involving mainly sweet potato, but also onion and prawns.
Just like onion bhaji – and just as delicious, especially dipped in the vinegary sauce that accompanies.
(There’s a lot of vinegar going around at Chibog!)
Rellenong squid ($10) finds a tubular cephalopod piece stuffed with mince pork and (fewer) vegetables.
It, too, is very enjoyable – though very mild of flavour.
It is served with very nice pickled vegetables (atchara).
That mildness aspect could be said to apply to much of our meal.
While the flavours are lovely, there is little in the curry or spice-style heat and impact we expect of food from enighbouring countries.
Our kansi ($19), for instance, looks like it may come with a laksa wallop.
Instead, the broth/stew is much more delicate and made with a tamarind base.
It’s an osso buco dish – and the meat is really tasty and fall-apart tender.
Like the Vietnamese stew bo kho, our kansi comes with quite a significant level of non-meat animal content.
I suspect individual punters’ approach to that will depend on cultural baggage.
We mostly put the fat aside, while mentally acknowledging that it IS an integral part of a dish we enjoy very much.
The chunky bits of jackfruit fit in right fine.
Finally, and sticking with meaty fare, we go for the Chibog dish that celebrates the Filipino fixation with roast pork – the crispy pata ($27).
Our pork knuckle is big, meaty and marvellous, the flesh a mixture of tender and still yummy not-so-much. There’s also a stack of crackling.
I make a fair fist of carving it myself, before handing over to the way more adept Janine!
It’s served with more atchara, chilli soy (our preference) and a Filipino staple of rich gravy served cold and made (partly) with liver.
And that would’ve been that for us very full lads.
Except, on account I’m guessing of our animated interest in the food and the fact the staff have no doubt twigged that a story/review is in the offing, we are offered and indulge in a complementary dessert.
Crispy leche flan ($9, top photo) is a custardy treat served in the formed of spring rolls.
Even better, IMO, is the brought-in but nevertheless excellent ube ice-cream. Ube is a yam that gives this ice-cream a flavour and texture that presents as a mix of coconut and pandan.