Strathfield for Korean. Cabramatta for Vietnamese. Harris Park for Indian. And now a new one you probably didn’t know about: Rooty Hill for Filipino. Blacktown used to be the place to go for the best Filipino food in Sydney, and it’s had a few solid takeaway shops for years, but this nearby western Sydney suburb is now the place to go.
There are two standouts: the grill-bakery-karaoke bar Mama Lor and the all-day breakfast and barbeque specialist A-Team’s Kitchen. We’re at the latter for breakfast. “Filipino breakfasts are simple,” says Arvin Acosta, who owns and runs the restaurant with his wife, Rosemarie. There’s tapsilog, a combo of garlic rice, pickles, egg and cured beef, and chorsilog, also garlic rice, pickles and egg but with sweet Filipino sausages instead of beef. There’s also bangsilog (with a garlicky and vinegar-marinated fried milkfish), spamsilog (with grilled spam) and porksilog (with fried pork chops).
“We always eat rice, egg and meat for breakfast,” says Acosta. “Well we tag it as ‘breakfast’ but we eat them anytime. We are heavy eaters.”
Arvin talks about it as though it’s the only option, but Filipinos have a rich culture of noodle soups, and many a breakfast is accompanied by taho, a sweet silken tofu and sago desert served in glass with amber-coloured sugar water.
Of the noodle soups, try the Batangas-style lomi, an almost-porridge-thick noodle soup with extra big noodles and a garnish of pork belly and crackling. It’s a speciality from Acosta’s hometown and a rare find in Sydney. “Our aim is to have every bit of what the Philippines has to offer – the specialities from [every] area,” he says.
Filipino breakfasts are why we’re here, but the restaurant’s reputation was founded on a different kind of rice and meat. A-Team’s Kitchen was originally famous for big outdoor charcoal cook-ups: sticky marinated intestines, tender pork-neck skewers, cubes of blood jelly, plumes of smoke and lines down the street. Due to seemingly unavoidable council-related obstacles that operation is now extinct.
The barbeque has been moved to Arvin and Rosemarie’s house and they transport the grilled goods to A-Team’s each day. They could cook the pork-neck skewers and lemongrass-stuffed squid in the restaurant on an electric grill but the charcoal flavour is too important. They’re working with council to try and get the street barbeque back on.
And as much as we’d love to tell you Rosemarie and Arvin are huge Mr T fans, the name has nothing to do with the ’80s TV show – it’s a reference to their family. Every member, including Arvin’s late mother, has a name starting with A. “We thought that'd be a good way to start the restaurant,” he says.
A Team’s Kitchen
4/52 Rooty Hill Road North (along Weston Lane), Rooty Hill
(02) 9832 3376
Mon to Sat 8am–8pm
This is another edition of Broadsheet’s weekly series “Local Knowledge”, where Nick Jordan explores the eateries at the heart of Sydney’s different cultural communities. Read more here.