Filipino Food at Dahon Gourmet Tea Lounge, South Melbourne
Something that I wouldn’t expect to find in Melbourne is decent Filipino food. Believe me, as a local Filipino food blogger, I’ve been searched high and low for a place where I can get my BBQ Pork Skewer fix before the next family party. Well folks, thanks to Cherrie and her bother Ed, my wish was granted when they recently opened Dahon Gourmet Tea Lounge, which is just a hop and a skip away from South Melbourne Market. The menu is diverse, seamlessly drawing from both eastern and western influences.
At Dahon Gourmet Tea Lounge you’ll find a variety of thirst quenching ice blends like the Filipino themed Lychee and Coconut to iced teas like the zesty Mango and Passion Fruit that comes with fresh kiwi fruit and passion fruit pulp and my personal favourite, Pineapple and Coconut Tea that is reminiscent of the delicious concoctions I happily gulped down whilst sitting by the white sandy beach at Boracay.
The Tea Trend
Melbournians stricken with a coffee addiction are fortunate enough to be blessed with a plethora of choices. Our cafe culture has undoubtedly exploded to the point of no return. The Age has even formed a Coffee Army to seek out Melbourne’s best bean and to perhaps, keep up with the the amount of new cafes that seem to be opening up each week. But whilst this trend has been forging ahead like a Shinkansen Bullet Train, the humble tea has been left behind. Yes, we do have high tea rooms and tea available at our cafes, but Dahon takes the leaf to another level by offering signature Dahon Fusions with your choice dependent on your mood or lifestyle. Take the Slimdown for example, with a blend of pu-erh oolong, alfalfa, nettle and fennel to assist with your metabolism (I’ll be needing this around Christmas time!) to the aptly named Stressless filled with lime blossom, oats straw, chamomile, blue corn flowers and rose petals to help calm the nerves. These can be made up for 1,2 or 4 people.
In true Melbourne style, there are a few communal tables to mingle with a group of friends and comfy couches you can lounge in whilst making use of their free WIFI.
In amongst the iced tea, ice blends and Dahon Fusion Teas, when I came back for the second time, I had the Orange Pekoe hot tea with subtle hit of citrus. It actually went well with milk and a dash of sugar. The complimentary leaf shaped green tea cookie was also a sweet touch. I spotted a few other gems I’d like to try out next like the Golden Monkey Yunnan, Silver Needles (white tea), Chinese Gunpowder and the enticing House Blend Pandan.
The Rise of the Sanga
Another Melbourne trend is the RISE OF THE SANGA. Gone are the days of boring white bread sandwiches filled with ham, cheese and tomato. Today, there are what is referred to as gourmet sangas – filled with Pork Belly and grass fed steak served on chewy baguettes found at places like EARL Canteen and Proud Mary. Dahon certainly fits into this realm of Sandwich Royalty. Let me start with the rehab-worthy BBQ Pork - filled with beautifully charred and slightly sweet pieces of juicy pork and slithers of tangy pickled green papaya. A stunning innovation on a traditional Filipino dish bringing it into the 21st century. I also loved the soft baguette itself as for one, it doesn’t scrape the top of your mouth (don’t you hate that!) and wasn’t overly chewy allowing the ingredients to shine. Word has gotten out about how amazing it is that even St Kilda’s Nick Riewoldt has been spotted devouring one!
Revolutionizing the oldskool chicken schnitzel sandwich, for $8.70, you can grab yourself a tasty Spiced Crumbed Baguette made up of crunchy generously sized tenderloins, roasted vegetables and a chilled cucumber yoghurt.
The pickled green papaya, a Filipino specialty, makes another welcomed appearance in the prawn baguette. The prawns are indeed massive and further complimented by a childhood favourite, pickled mayonnaise.
After co hosting a Filipino Fiesta with Cherrie, I for one can vouch for her Chicken Adobo – a dish made up of soy sauce, vinegar, bay leaves and garlic. Served with Java Rice, it is perfectly grilled and succulent.
Another highlight was the fried Lumpia – basically a spring roll filled with vegetables such as bean sprouts and minced pork. It’s quite juicy in texture compared to your standard spring roll and is pepped up with a side of picked green papaya. For $3.80, you get two pieces with a combination soy sauce and vinegar dipping sauce.
Joining the ring was the hounorable, BBQ Pork Skewers. Often the main attractions at family parties and hawker stalls back home in the Philippines, they are so easy to eat and so easily over consumed! At Dahon, there is no exception. Freshly grilled in the substantially sized kitchen, they are sizzled to charred perfection. Each piece you tear off the skewer is as consistently tender, sweet, slightly salty and moreish as the other piece with a good spread of meat vs fat. A sign of good marinade. I for one can eat a skewer of grilled pork fat! Any other takers?
Come to papa…
Exploring their Filipino heritage further, Pancit (noodles) or more specifically, Pancit Bihon is on the menu. For $8.50, you get to taste of one of the more quintessential dishes of our cuisine and is widely popular at street stands all over the Philippines. Dahon’s version is simple in execution and not overcrowded with vegetables making way for the hearty flavours of the pork to come through. Did I mention how generous the serving is?
Last but not least, we come to our native Leche Flan- also known as a caramel custard – is our most popular dessert and for many reasons that would likely extend this post out to many more pages. We use canned milk (evaporated and condensed) as opposed to fresh milk. It’s rich, smooth and best eaten slowly to appreciate it fully. Eaten on its own or usually found in other desserts like Halo Halo. Dahon’s Leche Flan lives up to the name and comes in clever packaging so you can flip it over and watch the caramelised topping flow down the creamy mountain. And of course in true ‘Pinoy’ style, there are many other desserts from various cupcakes and thanks to Cherrie’s twitter message – the newly appointed coconut pannacotta with mango! Sadly, due to many errands today, I couldn’t come down to devour this gem.*sad face*
The food is dynamite, the service is personable and friendly and the decor – relaxed. Dahon answers our calls for a specialty tea lounge and a great Filipino influenced eatery (finally!) and being so passionate about their teas, they do not serve coffee. That’s what makes this place so unique.
Cherrie – Queen of her kitchen domain and co founder of Dahon Gourmet Tea Lounge
Dahon Tea? Do it. I’ve been back.
Oh, and just in case you were wondering, ‘Dahon’ means ‘leaf’ in Filipino.
Details: Shop 5, 111 Cecil Street South Melbourne 3205 Phone: (03) 9696 5704 Facebook page
Food Rehab attended the launch party as a guest of Dahon Tea Lounge but paid for the subsequent visits
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