Kowloon House


1A Triholm Ave, Laverton. Phone: 9369 4121

One of my fondest (tastiest) memories of my St Kilda years is of a modest little food shop at the Espy end of Fitzroy St.

Cleopatra’s was basically a takeaway joint, though a couple of tables meant it could just about pass for a restaurant – and that’s precisely how I used it on countless occasions over many years.

The family that ran it was delightful and friendly, and their Lebanese food was stupendously fine – I have particularly mouth-watering recall of the chicken skewers and housemade lemonade.

As that end of Fitzroy St became increasingly cluttered with slick restaurants, Cleopatra’s migrated up the road to full restaurant status opposite the Junction Oval. By then I’d moved west, so visits were few.

And then it was gone.

(If anyone knows if the family concerned is still in the food business, please let me know!)

Cleopatra’s and its fine food had, of course, nothing at all to do with the famed empress or the land she ruled.

The name, I’ve always presumed, signalled an earlier and less sophisticated era of Australian foodiness, when citizens needed to be hit over the head with signposts of the most basic and banal and not necessarily all that accurate kind.

Same deal with Kowloon House in Laverton – likewise, it has little or nothing to do with Kowloon. Although it does trade in fried noodles, laksas and tom yum dishes, it’s another Filipino hot spot.

We’d already checked out Kabayan Filipino Restaurant in Cairnlea, and we’re very much looking forward to the Philippine Fiesta at the Melbourne Showgrounds in a couple of weeks.

So my solo trip to Kowloon House, which I’d spied on my many commutes by train to Geelong, on a typical Melbourne spring day (pelting down with rain) was more by way of tuning up.

It’s a cheerful and welcoming place, and whatever it’s dependence on clientele that prefers other southeast Asian dishes, it’s clearly Filipino at heart – as a bain marie of defiantly funky-looking stew dishes and array of groceries attest.

Once again I was confronted with the choice between bain marie and grilled dishes, opting for tapsilog, a rice-based dish that seems to be a breakfast meal that has come to have wider applications.

I liked it a lot.

The garlic rice was fluffy and flecked with egg. The fried egg was perfect. The marinated beef (I forgot to ask what exactly it was marinated in) was black, tough, chewy, but went real well with the little bowl of soy sauce-laced vinegar provided for dipping. And the little bundle of pickled papaya salad added another touch of piquancy.

It was a meal of happiness but also one of dubious healthiness!

The takeaway/catering menu of Kowloon House lists a revolving cast of daily specials: Tapsilob, halo-halo, pinakbet, sisig, caldareta, chicken adobo, monggo, dinuguan, ginatang langka, medudo, okoy, sinigang na baboy, turon.

Having just finished, ahem, digesting Google/Wikipedia explanations for most of them, I realise my Filpino food journey has a long way to go!

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