Philippines food in West Footscray? Let’s eat!

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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!

 

Chinese, fabulous

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Sun Wong Ky, 51 Byron Street, Footscray.

Footscray’s Little Saigon Market will never be replaced – figuritively and, it often seems, quite literally.

But we mostly have an ability to live in the present and appreciate what we have, rather than what once was.

So we enjoy the sparkling neighbourhood that has grown up around the burnt-out shell of the old market.

Centred on Byron Street, the neighbourhood has numerous businesses and a chilled-out vibe that is a nice retreat from the traffic and bustle of Barkly, Leeds, Hopkins and Nicholson streets.

 

 

Sun Wong Ky is fully symbolic of an area in transition – its new shop sits right opposite the premises it once occupied in the old market.

When the new place opened, the offerings and set-up seemed to us rather basic and aimed more at take-home customers.

Now, though, there is a much more eatery thing going on (see menu below), so we are right up for taking their Chinese roast meats for a whirl.

There are a few tables and chairs inside, but we take one of several outside tables and enjoy watching the world go by as we wait.

Bennie and I both choose the two-meat roast combo, priced at an excellent $12.80.

 

 

Soya chicken and barbecued pork for him and …

 

 

… soya chicken and roast pork for me.

Oh my!

This is great stuff – as good as any Chinese roast meats we’ve enjoyed in the west.

And that’s saying a lot.

The chicken – even the bigger, denser pieces – is very tender and juicy.

Likewise with Bennie’s barbecued pork.

The roast pork has superb crackling – not too gnarly, yet with plenty of crackle.

Cooking juices have been poured on the rice and under each pile of meat is good bok choy.

 

 

By contrast, our serve of chicken feet ($6) is dull, with none of the zingy saltiness from blackbean sauce or chilli kick we expect.

They’re big, though, and even surprisingly meaty – more like eating wings than feets!

 

A fine fit for Footscray

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Roman’s Original, 50 Leeds Street, Footscray.

We’re quite the salt fiends here at Consider The Sauce HQ.

This is not a boast – it’s a simply statement of fact.

Something a bit “meh” about one of our many home-made soups or stews?

Not enough salt!

And, hardly a surprise, we eat out quite a lot so are well used to salty restaurant food.

So it IS a surprise to have too much salt be a problem for us at Roman’s Original – and not just concerning one dish, but both we order.

 

 

Bennie’s first comment, upon trying his fried chicken sandwich ($15) is: “Wow – this is like really flash KFC!”

That’s a compliment!

But then: “It’s way too salty, though!”

Yeah right, I figure, suspecting he’s playing a bit too much the food critic.

But then he proceeds to pick the flour-based coating from his chook and enjoy the rest of his meal.

I try a couple of bits of the discarded coating.

He’s right.

It IS too salty. By a lot.

 

 

I hope there’ll be no such problems with my fish sandwich ($16), featuring a good-size piece of ling.

My sandwich is dressed and prepared the same way, so far as I can tell, as Bennie’s chicken effort – some herby mayo, lettuce, an ineffectual cheese slice, pickles.

It’s a terrific meal, a real nice handful with the crispy fish a treat.

But hold on …

Yes, my fish coating – panko crumbs this time – is ALSO way too salty.

And, as above, for us that’s saying quite a lot.

What is going on here?

I’m told, when we’re finished our meal and paying up, that today there have been some new arrangements in the kitchen.

We feel assured this is a one-off happening.

And that makes us happy.

Because we like Roman’s Original.

A lot.

We love the whole vibe, from the way bits, pieces and walls from the old deli have been retained in this place’s minimal-yet-elegant fit-out right through to the funky music.

And we love that this bar/eatery fits right into Leeds Street in particular and Footscray central in general.

Just like that – sound of fingers snapping – it looks a part of the furniture.

 

 

And, naturally enough, we also dig the equally minimalist menu – there’s no printed versions; just this simple list parked on the wall behind the order/pay counter.

 

 

We get two servings from the dishes listed under “sides”.

The pickles consist mostly of al dente carrots rounds with a mildly sour yet very intriguing flavour. They’re a bargain at $2.

The potato salad is even more of a steal – the $7 serve is pretty damn big, so much so we don’t finish it.

Our salad is divine – a mayo-rich extravaganza that is perfect in every way.

Despite the salty hiccups, we are eager to return to Roman’s Original.

 

VenU – a study in good eating

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VenU, Level 1 Building D, corner of Nicholson and Buckley Streets, Footscray (enter restaurant via Albert Street). Phone: 9919 8708

Tertiary education and other training and teaching institutions – and their people – have become ever more entwined in western suburbs life.

And, of course, some of this training and education involves courses and (mostly) young people looking to pursue careers in the hospitality industry.

They include those taking part in the Victoria University Polytechnic’s VenU restaurant for the next month or so – until early December.

The students man every part of this enterprise from the kitchen through to front of house.

 

 

After enjoying lunch there as a guest (full disclosure below), the CTS verdict is in.

It’s really, really good!

It’s super affordable!

It’s licensed!

You should go!

There are representative menus below.

Lunch and afternoon tea are available on Tuesdays.

Lunch and (early) dinner on Wednesdays.

For more details phone, 9919 8708; online bookings can be made here.

For lunch, I am joined by Megan and Denise from the VU marketing department and we have a very nice time.

 

 

The first surprise comes in the dining room.

Instead of the canteen-like vibe I am expecting, VenU is a real-deal restaurant with snappy, on-the-ball staff (students) and even linen napkins.

The food?

We have everything offered in the lighter fare found on the day’s lunch menu – and it’s all lovely.

 

 

Owing to countless unfortunate incidents in my childhood, pumpkin is pretty much my least favourite vegetable.

But the VenU pumpkin soup with cooconut ($5) wins me over – completely – with ease.

 

 

My housemade potato gnocchi with a “cream reduction” ($12) look like they’re they’re going to be oh-so-stodgy.

They’re far from it – they’re light, fluffy and delicious.

Though I do consume only as much of the rich sauce as is necessary to enjoy the pasta pillows.

 

 

My companions enjoy their seared pork belly with pickled vegetables ($12) and …

 

 

… roasted onion and goat cheese tart with red pepper relish and greens ($12) every bit as much.

The apple strudal with vanilla cream ($4, top photo) is a cracking dessert dream.

The cafe latte I have with it is excellent.

(Consider The Sauce dined at VenU as guests of the management and we did not pay for our meals. We were free to order whatever we wished. VenU management neither sought nor was granted any input, oversight or pre-publication access to his story.)

 

Footscray star’s makeover

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Hien Vuong Pasteur, 164 Hopkins Street, Footscray. Phone: 9687 9698

The many shoulder-to-shoulder eating houses of Footscray are forever in a state of flux.

Old ones close, new ones open, stayers are overhauled, new names and a lick of paint are applied to the tired – and some disappear forever.

It’s a fascinating cycle, one experienced – often subliminally – by anyone who spends time there.

And so it is that our fave pho joint has had a makeover.

We’ve always favoured Hien Vuong Pasteur – for the high-quality of its food, but also because it’s a smallish family operation that can relied upon to always have a seat or table to spare.

So in some ways we’re sad to see its old-school formica/utilitarian/white classic pho house appearance give way to something hipper.

But in truth the revamp here has been done with more class than most in this neighbourhood – its stylish and welcoming, a central high table with stools surrounded by orthodox tabling.

And it appears to be working!

On both our recent visits here, the place has been bustling.

 

 

And the food?

Well that hasn’t changed – still top-shelf pho house classics.

Including superb medium pho with sliced chicken and beef ($12).

 

 

Like most of its kind, Hien Vuong Pasteur has a smallish range of more exotic dishes, including bo kho (beef stew, $12).

This one – served with both egg and rice noodles at my request – is a bit different from others in the west, in that the beef pieces are smaller and there are no bones.

But the keys, as always with this dish, are the soup/broth (very good) and the carrot.

The carrot is invariably in big chunks – and hopefully holding together yet on the verge of disintegration.

As is the case here!

 

Bar won

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Littlefoot, 223 Barkly Street, Footscray. Phone: 9396 1282

What an ornament to Foostcray Littlefoot has become.

Was it the first bar to set up shop in Footscray central?

I think it was.

In the years since, it has been joined by a bunch of others – and they all appear to have something of their own to contribute to the local scene.

But Littlefoot continues to set a high standard – not only in food and drink, but also through deep immersion in the community through live music (beyond covers), a plethora of DJs and all sorts of “special” events.

As well, Littlefoot continues to carry a kitchen, unlike most of its neighbouring bar fellows. The Cheeky Pint, a few doors away, also cooks.

We are happy to accept an invitation to take the new winter menu for a run (see full disclosure below).

On this night, Team CTS consists of myself, Bennie, Justin and Will.

We eat well and deeply, coming away happy and satisfied.

Some of the tucker is right there in bar food mode – the sort of things you’d be happy to get a bite of if you were imbibing at Littlefoot anyway.

But some things we think are on another, higher level – making Littlefoot a food destination in its own right.

 

 

The charcuterie board ($25) is a good starter for us – tonight we are hungry lads.

It’s mix of  sour, salty, oily and chewy would also be an ideal light meal for two.

 

 

The DIY taco board ($18) is a hit – the undoubted highlight that elicts admirational comments all round.

The fours fish pieces – snapper – are superbly crumbed and deep-fried, holding together beaut even under the strain of taco construction. The flesh is both firmish and delicate.

Of the bits and pieces, it’s the red cabbage that adds tangy contrast. It’s is joined by guacamole, jalapenos, lime and swathes of fresh coriander.

This is a bargain – and zooms into Great Dishes of the West reckoning.

 

 

Just as expertly fried are the mac ‘n’ cheese croquettes ($12) – this is glorious stodge. Could’ve done with a bit more seasoning, IMO.

 

 

My friends seem a little less enamoured of our two burgers than I.

Perhaps we’re all a little burgered out?

But I reckon they’re both good, solid efforts.

The burgers are available in three modes – Littlefoot, Wild West and Bulldogs.

The beef burger ($20) comes in Bulldog garb of cheese, pickles, red onion, pickle, lettuce and “special burger sauce”.

This handy handful is accompanied by good chips.

 

 

If anything, our jackfruit burger ($20) is more noteworthy for the simple reason it offers an alternative to lentil patties and the like.

It’s done out in Wild West style – and that means a zingy combo of jalapenos, sriracha, caramelised onions, mustard, cheese, tomato and lettuce.

 

 

Another flavour hit – of the snacky variety – is provided by the lip-smackingly good edamame ($7) with garlic and black pepper.

Beer food supreme.

 

 

Unfortunately, amid this avalanche of food, the nachos ($14) and the fries loaded with pulled pork and slaw ($16, not pictured) get a bit lost.

Perhaps at another time with liquid redreshment in hand?

(Consider The Sauce dined at Littlefoot as guests of the management and we did not pay for our meals. We were free to order whatever we wished. Littlefoot management neither sought nor was granted any input, oversight or pre-publication access to his story.)

 

Pantry entry

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Ammas Pantry, 33 Parker Street, Footscray. Phone: 0439 902 384

Meet Deanne Thiedeman, on the left, and Beth Lavelle.

Ammas Pantry is their first foray into the hospitality industry, having taken over the premises on the corner of Parker and Hyde following the closing of relatively short-lived predeccesor.

They met when their two Sri Lankan-background sons attended, and became pals, at the kinder opposite their new cafe.

As you’d expect, that kinder and the next-door school play a fairly big part in the life, and prospective prosperity, of Ammas Pantry – but there’s lots here for a broader audience, too.

So while there’s the muffins and sandwiches and coffee you’d expect of an establishment right opposite two education institutions, Ammas is also delivering fine lunch-time meals that are delicious, affordable and of just the right heft for a daytime feed.

As I find out to my pleasure and satisfaction during two lunch visits.

Both my meals are built around brown rice, something that would cause Bennie to get a tad sniffy – but which I enjoy, especially when two differing sets of Asian flavours are so adeptly harnessed.

 

 

This fine, mild chicken curry, for instance, at $15.50.

It’s handily accompanied by that brown rice, a veg-studded dal, chutney, raita, a Sri-Lankan-style dry coconut jumble and a papadum

It’s excellent.

It makes me happy.

 

 

Same deal with this identically priced lunch bowl of brown rice, pickled ginger, carrot, cucumber, radish, avocado, wasabi, mayo and smoked salmon.

At first glance, this appears to be considerably more strident in terms of earnest brown rice-iness.

But there is just the right amount of seasoning and lubrication to make the whole thing sing – and not seem like a wholesome chore.

Deanne and Beth tell me the line-up will be tweaked as we move into winter.

Meals such as the two above will remain, but will be joined by some things of the “comfort food” variety.