Exotic treat

I VENTURED outside of Voiceland to try the exotic cuisine of a country I have never visited before – the Philippines.

Inspired by the carinderias (casual eating stalls) in the Philippines, Lola’s Diner in East Victoria Park opened mid-2021 and has enjoyed good reviews from food critics and Filipino ex-pats. 

I was initially worried when I read the one-page menu and saw there was quite a lot of fried chicken with gravy, as well as cheeseburger spring rolls and fried chicken spaghetti (I’m not really a fan of the fried stuff).

Thankfully there was a “grilled” section with chicken and pork belly dishes, and some other interesting fare including pork belly adobo (pork belly slowly braised in vinegar, soy and garlic) Longanisa (house made pork sausage lasagne) and vegan adobo (mushroom, fried eggplant, braised in vinegar, soy and garlic).

There was also some delicious sounding share plates – grilled and chopped liempo (pork belly) on a sizzling hotplate with tomato salsa and chilli egg, and “Boodle Fight” where a whole table share food served on a banana leaf for $38pp, as well as a kids menu with all dishes $12.

The man wearing a bandana behind the counter was a charismatic and friendly chap, full of smiles and chat as he took my order for a Boneless Inasal Chicken Maryland ($17).

The small cafe was a colourful affair – think those bright colours of Cuba – with a huge fun mural of Lola’s bus and photos of the Philippines on the walls.

I arrived at 11:50am and there were already two Filipino families in there (a good sign) and Uber deliverers were regularly streaming in and out.

Blaring away in the background was some Shakira-style music, including the lovely ditty “I just Called to say I Hate You.”

It wasn’t long before the friendly chap behind the counter came over with my boneless inasal chicken Maryland.

The skin-on marinated chook was cut into thin strips and tasted very fresh with the chipotle basting giving it a lovely sweet-spicy tang (there was also BBQ and inasal bastings available).

The trump card was the fresh salsa with diced tomato, red onion and spring onion, adding a fragrant burst of flavour.

Off to the side was a substantial mound of garlic rice (you could get chips instead) which was incredibly moist and had a strong punch that would see off any wannabe Draculas. At first I thought there wasn’t enough chook on the plate, but was I was full after eating all the rice and it was a nice size for lunch.

If I was getting it for dinner, I’d probably go with the optional fried egg on top.

I was looking forward to trying one of the “Filipino sodas” on the menu but unfortunately the fridge just had western drinks when I visited, but you could still order a Sago Gulaman, a Filipino beverage made from brown sugar, water, gelatin and tapioca pearls.

Run by brothers Al and Ken Craigie, Lola’s diner is a nod to their Filipino heritage, and they originally started up the cafe with their mother Estrella.

The diner was inspired by Al’s first visit to his grandmother’s carinderia in Santa Cruz Manila; his earliest memory of being in the Philippines and introduction to its cuisine.

“If there was one crowd favourite it will be the fried chicken and gravy. It’s our nod to Filipino chain Jollibee’s – chicken joy,” said Al. The brothers are also behind the successful RoyAl’s Chicken & Burgers, which started out in East Vic Park in 2016 and now has outlets across Greater Perth.

“Lola” means grandmother in Filipino and I’ll definitely be back with my family to try the “Boodle Fight” – a feast of inasal chicken, liempo, pork adobo and longanisa served on a banana leaf.

Lola’s Filipino Diner
8/885 Albany Highway, East Victoria Park
facebook.com/lolasfilipinodiner

by STEPHEN POLLOCK

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