Filipino Fiesta is a small grocer in Kogarah that specialises in provincial or “Longgo” cuisine from the Filipino coast. There’s no menu, just a rotating bain-marie selection that often includes roast pork; kare-kare (a thick peanut and ox-tail stew); and dinuguan (a dark-purple blood- and pork-based stew).
But its probably best known for boodle fights – a celebratory Filipino tradition that likely originated in the military as a means to feed a large number of troops efficiently. Banana leaves are laid out on a table, with a long mound of rice heaped down the middle. Everything else (meat, fish, veggies, fruit, salted eggs and spring rolls) is placed on top and diners tuck in with their hands – no need for cutlery, plates or formality. The empty banana leaves are then wrapped up and hurled into the bin.
Owner Cristina Bontjer runs it all. She’d been working as a cleaner when a friend convinced her to chase her dream of opening a Filipino eatery in Australia. She started cooking with her mum as a teen in Iloilo City, on Panay Island, where her family owned a stall serving barbeque and local dishes. Bontjer would help out after school.
The restaurant has been a success thanks to its popularity among Filipinos who come for its boodle fights but also for the range of well-priced dishes on offer (the bain-marie is regularly flush with recipes you won’t often find in Sydney). The space reliably fills with the after-school crowd, too, who come for halo halo – a cold dessert made from crushed ice, condensed milk and fruit that’s served in a sundae glass.
If you visit on a weekend, you might try some karaoke under the restaurant’s disco lights. And if you’re keen on a boodle fight – call ahead. Prices start at $25.
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