Meat the Filipino way

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IT doesn’t take long when in the Philippines to get that Filipinos love to chow down on meat – large quantities of meat.

So when at Kusina, Canberra’s only Filipino restaurant, I wasn’t surprised to see heaps of meat being offered, including braised beef ribs, sizzling beef osso bucco, crispy pork belly, beef sirloin, chicken, and garlic sausage (made “fresh by mama”).

If this doesn’t tickle your fancy, don’t fret; Kusina also has a few fish and seafood dishes. Vegetarian and gluten-free options are also available on request.

King prawns with lime and coconut butter.
King prawns with lime and coconut butter. Photo by Brent McDonald
Kusina means ‘kitchen’ and this is truly a family affair, with siblings John Ora and Leilani Fox (both from the Hyatt) creating home-style dishes, some based on traditional family recipes taught to them by their mother and grandmother. Sharing is how Filipinos love to dine so rather than entrees, you order smaller dishes to complement your mains.

Food from the Philippines is strongly influenced by the Chinese and Malay inhabitants of the islands and is truly multicultural. Marinating and slow braising are key. And you’ll see uniquely Filipino elements on the menu such as banana ketchup mayo, served with crispy chicken wings.

We started with Lumplang Sariwa, stir-fried vegetables you wrap in crepes that end up looking like super-sized spring rolls ($8 for two pieces). Nice and crunchy and heaps of veggies.

From the chef’s specials we ordered Bicol Express, braised pork (beautifully tender) in a light, but spicy coconut cream ($18.50). Some of the fat could have been removed, I felt, although it certainly adds to the flavour. And the Chicken Inasal – grilled with lemon grass, garlic, ginger and soy sauce ($20) – was super tasty and juicy, although a bit too pink towards the bone.

Kusina (Dining Review) 037
King fish ceviche with chilli, citrus, red onion and coconut milk. Photo by Brent McDonald
Kusina has the best deal going for kids eight years of age or under. They eat free Tuesday to Saturday (5pm to 7pm) and that includes a meal, drink and ice cream.

The large dessert display includes the bright (and I mean bright) purple yam cake so popular in-country. Other Filipino favourites include the famous creamy leche flan and, on the drinks side, coconut juice and sweetened cumquat juice.

Kusina is relaxed and friendly. Indeed, staff were very accommodating and happy to shift outdoor tables around for a nice possie in the sun.

The interior isn’t fancy, but it’s warm and inviting, featuring decorations from the Philippines on the walls and sweet family photos on the menus. And we loved the mini cupcakes we were offered as a treat at the end of our meal.

Open for lunch and dinner Tuesday to Saturday. Breakfast/lunch Saturday and Sunday. Call 6288 8461. BYO wine and beer only. Cooleman Court shopping precinct. Indoor and outdoor dining.

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Wendy Johnson
Wendy Johnson: Food reviewer for Canberra CityNews magazine since 2004, covering stories for true foodies to digest.

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