I have been to my fair share of Filipino restaurants in Melbourne throughout the years, so if I was to be perfectly honest, I was not expecting much. Most Filipino restaurants in Melbourne, Australia, tend to be the same — dishes in bain-maries served with a bowl of rice, or grilled meat served with garlic rice.
The few restaurants that I have been to that were actually made-to-order restaurants tended to be so westernised that the Filipino flavours were gone. So visiting Chibog in Footscray West was actually a very pleasant surprise.
Chibog is a Filipino slang word that means "to eat." It is also the name of the newest Filipino restaurant in Melbourne's west. Chibog is a trendy Filipino restaurant/bar situated on busy Barkley Street in Footscray West. Its signage consists of a small lightbox, so you will need to look for it in order to find it. There is 1-hour parking available on Barkley Street; however, I would recommend off-street parking on Clarke Street, which does not have a time limit.
My partner and I went for dinner at Chibog on a Wednesday night, four days after its grand opening.
Upon setting foot in Chibog, you are welcomed with a trendy, dark, industrial atmosphere combined with warm wooden tones and a soft glow from the neon lettering. The bar was placed in the centre of the restaurant, giving a view of the bar and its staff from any seat in the house.
Although we had no prior reservation, we were greeted warmly by one waitress who offered us the choice of either a table by the kitchen or a bar table. We chose the regular table by the kitchen that gave us a clear view of the chef working.
The menu offered a limited variety of Filipino cuisine and appeared to focus more on tapas-style and bar food. For our meal, we ordered wagyu steak tapas, kinilaw, tortang talong, kare kare, pork sisig, and plain rice. For dessert, we ordered ube waffles and crispy leche flan, and for our drink, we tried the ube macapuno colada.
Chibog’s desserts were the highlight of my night. They were each innovative and new and nothing like I have ever tried before in Melbourne. I recommend both to any new customer.
However, I found the ube macapuno colada was a let-down for me. Of everything that we had ordered, this was what had excited me the most. However, upon trying the beverage, I found that all that could be tasted was the alcohol. In saying that, the drink was not horrible, just not what I imagined it to be.
Update: I returned to Chibog after writing this article, and learnt you can request less alcohol. I tried the drink again with less alcohol, and the cocktail tasted better, but that is a personal preference.
I also tried calamansi smash on my second visit, which was very good, and tasted like a sourer version of a mojito.
Similarly, the speed of service was also a slight let-down. Some staff did not meet the demands of this bar/restaurant, as we found the service slow. In saying that, the restaurant did open only a few days prior, and perhaps the staff was still getting used to the pace.
Update: Again, I returned to Chibog after writing this article. Service was much faster, with hardly any wait.
The speed of service was easily overlooked thanks to the personality of the staff. The staff were attentive and took extra time explaining dishes to patrons, which may explain why they were a little bit slow. They were friendly and offered great customer service even when not required.
We met the owner of Chibog, Janine, who readily smiled at every customer that walked through the door. She gave recommendations of her favourite dishes (with great difficulty, as she made the menu) and again welcomed everyone as though she was welcoming them into her home rather than her business. She joked and laughed with her customers, making them feel at ease and wanting to return for the atmosphere.
Chibog is not your typical Filipino restaurant. It creates a fusion that appeals to the western palate in an innovative way that doesn’t compromise on Filipino flavours.
Because of the magnificent food, attentiveness of the owner and staff, and trendy atmosphere, I recommend visiting Chibog if ever you are in Melbourne, Australia.
Rating: 4/5 Stars Recommendations: If visiting Chibog for the first time, I recommend trying the wagyu tapa, kare kare, ube waffles, crispy leche flan, and calamansi smash.