Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Port of Manila: where home felt like a K Lighter Day

Internationally acclaimed foodies may have written about proper Filipino food but it's still the Atlantis of Asian cuisine waiting to be discovered; you're most likely to find a flurry of Asian restaurants anywhere in the world but rarely anything Filo. I've often been asked about Filo restaurants here in London but I've not exactly found one I liked enough to recommend. And because I come from families who can - and I quote my cousin D - "burn a salad", I've not been able to offer my cooking either (I can cook adobo, but that's about it).

D told me about Port of Manila ages ago. She said it was decent but a bit of a trek. I've forgotten all about it until the Filo Supper Club had a special occasion to celebrate and it floated in our pool of suggestions. When someone mentioned the magic words (lechon kawali) we knew we had a winner.

True enough the restaurant was in the most obscure place: a residential road off Hammersmith tube. It was indeed homey and cosy inside with an estimated capacity of 30 for comfortable sit-down meals, but you can probably push to 60+ for a full house reception. 

Remember our little angel Keith? We were celebrating his birthday. A supposed dinner turned out to be a surprise birthday party for his mom Ate T. It was indeed a K Lighter day for her.

So what did we have?

One of my favourite Filo starters, is the ensaladang mangga (£4.5). It's made of chopped green mangoes (the raw type), onions, tomatoes and shrimp paste. I usually prefer the mangoes raw for the extra tang and crunch. PoM's version used mangoes that are slightly on the ripe side but the flavours were still good!

I have the highest standard when it comes to laing because this is hands down my favourite Filo dish ever. PoM's spicy laing (£8.95) is impressive as it was proper laing. The taro leaves were super flavourful, seasoned and soaked in the creamy coconut milk. Also, despite the inclusion of actual taro, the texture was smooth and not starchy at all. We all loved this, although I wish they put a bit more chili. I actually ate the big chili pepper on top. We had two servings!

We ordered three plates of the lechon kawali (£9.95) and boy did it start a war of forks. We pierced our way through the cuts as if the lot was going out of style. The pork belly was tender juicy delicious and seasoned well; it wasn't oily either considering it's a deep fried fat piece of pork. Oh and just to confirm your thoughts... that deliciously crunchy looking cracker of a rind? Yes. Mind blowing. 

Of course we had to have the unofficial national dish of the Philippines. The adobo has heaps of recipe variations depending on preference and region. The one we had at PoM is called adobo sa gata (£9.95). It was cooked in coconut milk and I was really excited as I've never tried that variant. Fascinating how one ingredient can change the flavour profile of a dish; it was creamier and sweeter than usual and it didn't taste like adobo at all. It was pretty yummy as well - but admittedly I'm still a sucker for the semi-dry, garlicky, tangy adobo I’m used to.

Kare kare is a dish I always request when I go home. It's usually made of oxtail, tripe and veggies (aubergine, string beans and bok choy) but our angels would always cook it with more meat. PoM's kare kare (9.95) was more traditional so I only picked the veggies and a bit of the meaty parts but the peanut sauce was actually very tasty, I didn't have to put much shrimp paste on it anymore.

We also had a plate of pansit bihon (£8.95) which was pretty good (although I'm not much of a noodle fan) and two plates of camaron rebosado (£9.95) which is battered prawn with sweet and sour sauce. Didn't get to take a photo because this was quite a hit straight to our bellies. The thing is, I didn't find it any different to Hong Kong Style prawns from Chinese restaurants but everyone else said that's how it's supposed to look like. The camaron I'm used to looks like this though:
Photo from Philippine Daily Inquirer

Of course we had all of this with rice. Two MASSIVE bowls full of steamed white rice.

Starters, salads, mains done, it was time for dessert. I don't think any birthday should go without cake so we brought in this awesome white chocolate marquis cake from Euphorium Bakery. Imagine rich chocolate fudge encased in tempered white chocolate, topped with cream and white chocolate florets. YUM!

Post dinner, we lit up some sky lanterns so we can send our messages and well wishes to Keith in heaven....

But it was way too windy so the lanterns rolled DOWN THE ROAD instead. We all rushed to grab the blazing lanterns before they ended up setting cars on fire! Haha!

We ended the night speaking to the owner and main chef, Tita Tess. She was quite friendly and very proud of how PoM has evolved in the past four years. I'm glad to know that they are passionate about Filo food and that they are educating London in their own way. We found out that their market stalls around West London are a huge hit, not just to the Filo community but also to the locals!

All filled up with great food and warm hearts... everyone had an amazing time thanks to PoM's amazing spread and homey service, and of course to Keith, who will forever be remembered and loved.


Port of Manila
129-131 Brackenbury Road, London W6 0BQ | +44(0)20 8741 2099
Ave spend pp: £20 
Port of Manila on Urbanspoon

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