I’ve had Filipino food exactly once before in my life, when I had the opportunity to sample the Philippine Food Week buffet lunch at the Shangri-La Hotel back in 2012. It was a fascinating introduction to a culture’s cuisine that I had never encountered before, and it certainly piqued my interest. For some reason though, in the (nearly) two years since I went to the Philippine Food Week buffet, I had never had the chance to visit a Filipino restaurant and try more dishes. Filipino restaurants seem to be few and far between in Sydney, and you really need to know where they are!
This has all changed with a new Filipino restaurant on my end of town. Pamana has opened up just across the road from my gym in Chatswood about two months ago and does a steady, if not booming trade. I’ve never seen the restaurant full but it’s also not struggling for diners. Interestingly most of the people I see dining there (as I walk past on my way to the gym) seem to be of Filipino origin, so I judged the food to be authentic. A visit was definitely on the cards!
K and I sat down in the restaurant on a night when only half the tables were full. The wait staff came over straight away with some water and a little bowl of complimentary popped fried corn for us to nibble on as we perused the menu. We definitely needed that extra bit of brain fuel as half the menu was written in Filipino and we struggled to understand parts of it!
This drink that we ordered was a prime example of how difficult the menu is to decode for people like us who have no previous exposure to Filipino culture, language or food. When we asked the waitress what “Guyabano” juice actually is, she struggled to explain it as a ‘melon’ before she ran off to the kitchen to pick up a can to show us what it looked like. For the record, guyabano is soursop which tastes like a strange mix of a melon, tropical fruits, citrus, and banana. Apparently it’s heralded as a natural cure-all for every ailment known to mankind, but I just know of it as a very sweet more-ish drink!
We ordered the “paksiw na lechon”, which was explained to us as being a real specialty of the restaurant when we were handed the menu as we sat down. It comes out on a sizzling plate with a raw egg on top and I allow myself only a split second to take a photo before we quickly break the egg yolk and mix it in with the delicious minced pork mix. With a squeeze of lemon on top, it’s a spicy and flavour-packed dish that verges on the overwhelming when eaten alone.
Luckily, the staff at Pamana are well-versed in up-selling their customers, so we didn’t have to have the “paksiw na lechon” by itself. When we ordered it, our waitress insisted that we order a fried rice as well, assuring us that it’s best eaten in combination with the tuyo fried rice, as the rice balances the strong pork flavours of the dish. Thankfully we took her advice and ordered an extra rice dish which did end up mixing well and dulling the intensity of the minced pork. The fish flakes added a little something special to an otherwise plain base dish.
In an attempt to order something a little healthier, we order the “sinigang na bangus fillet sa miso”, a fish-based vegetable soup. I savour the clear soup – possibly too sour for some, but I enjoy the cleansing taste of it as well as the medley of vegetables in the base. The milkfish is a bit too fatty for my liking, but it’s easy enough to remove the fat and just have the flesh.
Another of Pamana’s specialty dishes is the “crispy pata”, or deep-fried pork knuckle. It’s not a dish for the faint-hearted – you can really taste the salty variety of spices that’s been rubbed into the skin prior to cooking. I find parts of the knuckle too dry to suit my personal preference, but then again, other parts feature that delicious crunch of well-done pork crackling.
In a fit of complete mindlessness, we order an extra entree of “rellenong talong” even though there’s no way the two of us could finish five full dishes. It’s one of those dishes that I just had to have though, as I am a complete nut over anything that has eggplant in it – and I wasn’t disappointed. Unlike other dishes where you might get diced or sliced eggplant in bits, this dish offers you the full eggplant (stem attached!) encased in a delicious pork omelette. It’s a combination of three of my favourite food items – how could you possibly go wrong?
Even though we are full to bursting by this point, I am insistent on ordering dessert. As a creme caramel fanatic, K orders the “leche flan”, which comes out with delicious caramel sauce drizzled over it. It’s a touch more solid that I originally expected (it certainly doesn’t melt in the mouth!), but this actually lends itself well to a dessert that has more body and substance than a standard creme caramel.
Remembering my earlier liking of halo-halo at the Filipino buffet two years ago, I was tempted to order Pamana’s halo-halo dessert. However, common sense finally prevailed and I reasoned that at twice the price of all the other desserts, I was unlikely to be able to finish it on my own…it would have to wait until my next visit! Instead, I opted for the “brazo de mercedes”, a delicious soft meringue dessert with a hearty and creamy lemon curd. Equal parts light, fluffy and sweet, I could have very easily had another serve…or two!
Obviously you can tell from this summary that we ordered way too much for just two people – we ended up doggy-bagging two lunches worth of food, which K was very happy about as it made him and his lunches the envy of all his colleagues. Despite our over-ordering though, it was a very reasonably priced meal – at just over $80 for the two of us for dinner (plus two lunches), Pamana offers an affordable and unique Filipino dining experience that has no equivalent anywhere else in Sydney. We’ll certainly be back!
Pamana is located at 102/7 Railway St, Chatswood, a short walk from Chatswood train station.