With this review of Kalye Manila, we're kicking off our 'I Know a Place' series highlighting places with sublime food that you may not know about. We're aiming to give a little bit of love to some fabulous secret gems and let you know what's good in the process. Enjoy!
There's something about seeing a sizzling plate noisily bubbling its way over to your table that is really special. The whole restaurant is thinking ooh what's that!? And you're thinking "ooh that's for me! I made the right choice with this dish!"
So it was with the sisig at Kalye Manila. It's chopped chicken livers and pork cheek with onion and an egg that cooked as we mixed it in on the hotplate - and it is a thing of beauty. The usual gameyness of chicken livers is negated by the strength of the onion and smokiness imparted by the hotplate while the juiciness retained in the onions keeps the pork belly and egg from being too rich. We practically licked the plate clean.
But it looked like I was a little late to the party in finding out about this place. The eatery was full of families, chatting away over large lunches and Yi You (the co-author and photographer of this piece also known as @xiaolongboi) who brought me there, tells me that it's a favourite among the Filipino community. I can see why. I'm already planning another trip to get my hands on some more kwek kwek: creamy little deep fried quail eggs with an onion and vinegar sweet and sour dipping sauce that was notable on its own.
We also had the hand-made sausages served with rice, an egg, salad and more of that moreish vinegar sauce. They made a great breakfasty treat for me, an adult, but I would be equally pleased to have them if I were a fussy child who liked sausages.
Just when I thought I was too full to eat another bite, along came the flan. It was deeply caramelised to a gorgeous brown on the top and crust, though it was light and not too sweet with a pleasantly moist ube (sweet purple yam) sponge on the bottom.
The only thing I could have possibly squeezed in at that point was halo halo, and along it came, a high stack of milky shaved ice topped with with ube ice cream and a rainbow of fruity jelly. We sat and pecked away at it while we chatted and digested. The light dessert made a great outtro to the meal.
The family restaurant (which has another branch in Manukau) isn't extravagant but it feels special. The dishes have been made with love and thought has been put into the simple, warm decor. There are edison bulbs intertwined with vines above the counter and images of Filipino people and life in the Philippines adorn the walls. It isn't a Ponsonby-style cafe with a million-dollar fit out and it doesn't need to be, it's a community staple with great food.
A lovely Auckland family has poured their hearts and souls into this place and it shows. Though it's across town, it's so damn delicious with such a huge and varied menu, you'll have to go back more than once. Supporting local is actually so fabulously easy!
68 Queens Road, Panmure, Auckland