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A 30-year labour of love located in the Weston Creek Cooleman Court shopping precinct, Kusina meaning ‘kitchen’, introduces the good folk of Canberra to the delights of a true ‘fusion’ food – Filipino cookery.
The team behind Kusina are native Canberrans and siblings Jon Ora and Leilani Fox, who have been heavily influenced by their father’s forays into catering and restaurants in Canberra, and the family recipes taught to them by their mother and grandmother.
“Food from the Phillipines is truly ‘fusion’”, explains Leilani. “As a colony of Spain for four hundred years, sitting smack bang in the middle of the China Sea, the food is strongly influenced by Chinese and Malay inhabitants of the islands. It’s easy to use the word to describe our multi-culturally influenced cuisine – but ‘fusion’ doesn’t do justice to the evolution of our dishes, which are uniquely Filipino”.
Jon and Leilani believe that what makes Filipino food unique is patience and love in the preparation of the dishes.
“Marinating and slow braising are cornerstones of Filipino cooking” says Jon. “Truly great Filipino cooking can’t be taught in a commercial kitchen – I have watched others prepare these treasured dishes for family to understand the timings and processes needed to create the marriage of flavours that Filipino cooking embodies”.
A glance at the menu (which, in a charming retro touch, features photos of Jon and Leilani’s family before they left the Philippines for Australia) reveals a tantalising homage to fresh ingredient combinations. The entrees rely on uncomplicated pairings such as chilli, red onion, garlic and vinegar with fish, prawn and chicken, prepared primarily in an Asian style, including two soups. Surprise inclusions of salted duck eggs and banana ketchup mayonnaise are sure to give the more adventurous diner a challenge.
Kusina’s main courses are divided into two categories; grilled specialities and a half-dozen dishes based on the Ora family recipes. Of the grilled dishes, pork belly, snapper, prawns and beef feature, accompanied by the fresh contrasts of chilli and mango, lime and coconut butter, lemongrass and soy. The traditional mains are more in the Spanish style, featuring meats with saucing and richer flavour combinations. As is expected with this style of cooking, Jon has devised tasty rice and noodle combinations that can be eaten as is, or as a side to the aforementioned mains.
They also do an INCREDIBLE boodle feast.
A refreshing and exciting dessert menu awaits those who still have room: banana spring rolls, cashew nut layered cake and the queen of Filipino desserts, the silky, creamy leche flan head the list along with some more traditional and simple fare to tempt the diner. (Dear reader: this writer must declare a conflict of interest at this point – I have gorged on the leche flan at many Ora family functions and am totally addicted!)
Weston Creek locals in particular will be excited by Kusina’s status as a true special occasion breakfast venue – something that has been sadly lacking at Cooleman Court for years. Along with the usual staples of pancakes, eggs Benedict and full-cooked brekky, you can expect a selection of traditional Filipino breakfast items including garlic sausage, chicken omelette and cured pork. Wash it all down with your favourite coffee, or try one of the fruit shakes or juices: avocado, coconut, and brown sugar syrup with tapioca pearls are fresh additions to the regular flavours.
The fitout, designed by Canberra interior designer, Nicola Smith of Yolk, is clean and modern with touches of Filipino authenticity; coloured windows imported especially for the restaurant and Ora family photos on the menus. The final product is a lot like owners Jon and Leilani – contemporary and fresh, with a healthy respect for family traditions. The name is most certainly not a glib attempt to lure diners looking for home-style cooking – you really have been invited into their family kitchen to share and enjoy.
When: 5pm to 9pm Monday; 11am–2:30pm and 5pm–9pm Tuesday to Friday; 9amm–2:30pm and 5pm–9:30pm Saturday and 9am–2:00pm Sunday.
Where: Parkinson Street, Weston ACT 2611.
Book: Phone 02 6288 8461 or email email@example.com