Philippines food in West Footscray? Let’s eat!

Leave a comment

 

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.

Yummo!

 

Filipino surprise

Leave a comment

 

Enelssie Cafe & Grill, 102 Tenterfield Drive, Burnside Heights. Phone: 0449 775 107

On a heatwave mid-week day, we’ve enjoyed the drive.

But despite having a firm destination in mind, it seems somehow surprising to apparently stumble across Enelssie.

This is most definitely the first CTS review harking from Burnside Heights.

It’s quiet, but we know from numerous Facebook posts that this a popular spot, particularly with the cycling fraternity.

Enelssie?

According to Anthony, the owner: “It came from the root words New Life Cycles NLC – New Life in Aussie = Enelssie. Also As my personal belief that It’s originally New Life In Christ!”

 

 

It’s ostensibly a Filipino restaurant, without being too ardent about it.

There’s no bain marie for starters – everything is cooked fresh.

We enjoy two good meals.

Bennie goes the more orthodox Filipino route with his tapa ($15.50, top photo).

It’s beaut and he loves the plentiful supply of marinated beef cubes.

Alongside are good garlic rice, tomato salad and a small bowl of broth.

And a fried egg – giving further impetus (maybe) to us one day doing a story about all the various dishes we enjoy across the west that involved fried or hardboilded eggs.

 

 

My own fried chicken ($16) is less Filipino in substance – but it has the spirit.

And it’s very, very fine.

The price may seem a little out of whack for (just) two pieces – but these are large. No problem from us about the cost.

Even better, we agree this is the best fried chicken we’ve enjoyed for a long while.

The coating sticks to the meat, which is wonderfully juicy and flavoursome.

There’s something sort-of wonderfully tangy and almost piquant about the coating.

We’re told it includes a proverbial mix of “herbs and spices”.

Maybe it’s the onion powder?

No matter – this is prime fried chook.

Plain rice accompanies the chicken, as does a simple leaf salad and some really fine chicken gravy.

We’ve barely scratched the surface of what’s available at Enselssie – check out its FB page for further enlightenment.

 

A crackling good meal

1 Comment

 

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.

 

 

Bitter melon?

Been there, done that – usually served from the aforementioned bain maries.

Not impressed.

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).

Oh, yes!

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.

 

Grill time

1 Comment

 

GJ’s Grill, 8Street food court, Docklands.

8Street is a new indoor arcade of Asian eateries – it’s pretty much right under the big ferris wheel.

So new is it, we’re here on opening day for the lot of them.

Or, rather, it’s opening day for all the businesses, but we’re here for just one – the purveyor of Philippines eats known as GJ’s Grill.

We’ve tried – once – the original GJ’s in Franklin Street, near Vic Market, with OK if not memorable results.

Very long-time readers will know we have a certain, um, ambivalence about Filipino food.

But we’re definitely up for trying the new GJ’s.

Because we’re in the expert hands of the Urban Ma, Jacqui, hubby Wes and their kids.

They’re big GJ’s fans and besides it’s been way too long since we’ve enjoyed a catch-up.

 

 

And we’re heartened by the knowledge the menu (see below) is all about grilled/roast meats and nothing at all about the braises and so on that often fill bain maries in Filipino eateries.

Great!

The routine is regulation food court – pay at the counter and wait for your number to come up – and the food is served in cardboard containers.

I’m a bit nonplussed that the photos for this story make the food look unlovely, parsimonious and unadorned.

It’s none of those things – we eat well and affordably.

 

 

Bennie has the beef talapa with garlic rice ($14.50).

Jacqui has warned us that the meat will be well done in the Pinoy style.

She’s right, but it’s still good eating.

And this is another of those dishes that could be included in a mooted CTS story about dishes that come with an egg – you know, nasi goreng, com tam (Vietnamese pork chop with broken rice), bandeja paisa (Colombian beans and rice), like that.

Biryani? Well, that means hard-boiled egg – but an honourable mention, anyway.

 

 

With the same garlic rice comes my lechon – crispy skin pork.

It’s excellent – and sinfully rich and fatty; quite like classic Chinese roast pork, but without the seasonings.

Both our meals are lifted in the zing department by serves of atchara – a liquidish pickle concoction made from grated unripe papaya.

 

 

We’re powerful hungry, so also get a couple of the classic pork skewers.

These are awesome and much more generous than we’ve had in the past, so the $5 each price tag is no problem.

The meat is tender, succulent, perfect.

 

 

It’s too rich for me, but my dining companions also share a serve of another classic – sisig ($19).

This is an offalish jumble that is a bit like the topping of an HSP – without the chips!

It’s tricky to gauge how GJ’s and its neighbouring 8Street establishments will go at Docklands.

Parking is a problem here.

But if you’re there anyway, GJ’s is worth checking out for something a little different.

 

 

Lasang Pinoy (The Filipino Cuisine)

5 Comments

lasang10

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.

lasang7

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.

lasang5

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.

lasang2

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.

lasang1

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.

lasang4

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.

lasang3

lasang6

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!

lasang11

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!

 

lasang14

lasang13

lasang9

lasang12

lasang8

Dahon Tea Lounge

13 Comments

Dahon Tea Lounge, Shop 5, 111 Cecil St, South Melbourne. Phone: 9696 5704

Other business having necessitated a visit to St Kilda Rd, it’s a satisfying to stop in South Melbourne on the way home and finally get around to a visit to Dahon Tea Lounge.

It’s here I’ll renew my sometimes rocky relationship with Filipino food.

The place is done out in a comfy yet quite sleek cafe style.

Things start very well.

A single skewer of BBQ pork ($2) is just right – tender meat, smoky flavour and an easily acceptable level of oiliness.

The delight and pleasure in the ability to order a dish containing okra mean I pay scant attention to the rest of the menu options, ordering instead pinakbet with rice ($9.20), the former described as “Filipino vegetable stew with okra, bitter melon, snake beans, pumpkin and eggplant”.

Reflecting on my meal as I write, I figure there’s only really two viable scenarios here.

One is that this is a typical, average, good or even excellent version of this Filipino staple and that fundamentally this is a dish not for me.

The other is that it is simply awful.

I am thoroughly underwhelmed.

There seems to be little impact by way of garlic, ginger, onion or shrimp paste.

And there seems to be little or no overall harmony in my meal – just a bunch of vegetables carelessly slapped together.

There is very little of the okra that triggered my order.

If this were to be served in a vegetarian cafe, it would be ridiculed.

The most abiding presence is a nasty bitterness – caused not only, I suspect, by the bitter melon but also by the undercooked eggplant.

I can go with the flow of slightly cooked beans and even pumpkin – but undercooked eggplant?

I subsequently look at a lot of photos, read a lot of recipes and even watch an interesting cooking video, and realise that, yes, what I have been served very much resembles a real-deal pinakbet.

Filipino food and me – seems like we could do with some sort of mediation. Or a mutual pledge to stay well clear of each other.

Or maybe next time I simply need to order one of the good-looking Dahon baguettes.

Or anything else on the menu.

Dahon Tea Lounge on Urbanspoon

Chadz Chickenhaus

7 Comments

Chadz Chickenhaus, 475 Ballarat Rd, Sunshine.

It seems I may have hit Chadz Chickenhaus at a not particularly auspicious time.

There’s quite a few people milling about the front counter/bain-marie, waiting for various takeaway orders. Progress seems to be slow even though staff members are rushing here and there.

Despite having a somewhat rocky relationship with Filipino food, to me the bain-marie contents look pretty good.

But I stick with Plan A – I’ve come here to try their butterflied chicken and chips.

A little under half the tables are occupied, but all of them are littered with debris from previous meals and previous patrons.

Plates, bowls, cutlery, cans, straws, chicken bones and all sorts of food are all over the place – including on the floor.

After I place my order – half chicken chips with a can of soft drink ($10) – things look up as a young man starts to slowly clear the mess away. Slowly but methodically.

He gives it away, though, after clearing every table except mine. The floor stays the same.

I am summoned to the front counter to pick up my meal.

The serviette dispenser is empty.

The chips are poor and not hot enough, and the sweet, sticky sauce from the chicken has about half of them sodden.

I eat most of them anyway, on account of being hungry.

The chicken is just OK – far short of the sensation for which I am hoping. A bit tired and scrappy, lacking zing.

It’s tender enough, though, and the sauce is quite nice.

Average is the word.

As I leave, the scraps of my lunch join those of the table’s previous tenants.

Loving the sort of food we do at Consider The Sauce, and the kind of places that produce it, we learn to not be too fussy, to go with the flow and happily accept and even expect and joyfully embrace ups and down of various kinds with good humour and optimism.

We don’t like, want or expect fine dining or the service levels that go with it.

But … maybe just a bad day, eh?

For a different perspective on Chadz Chickenhaus, check out the review at Footscray Food Blog.