Chikos Restaurant and Cafe (Henderson, New Zealand)
I can’t remember when was the last time me and my wife got really excited with a restaurant but definitely Chicos filled that gap, it’s so good at last I can promote a Filipino Fusion restaurant to my non Filipino friends who are asking me where to eat Filipino food. It was quite a drive from our place but it was all worth it, I heard of this restaurant a lot of times but never bothered as it was from a different suburb from ours. Filipino friends recommended it, an ex-colleague of mine also told me to try it (her brother is a chef there) and even Viva have rave reviews about it.
So what’s good about this place? Well at first the place looks good, it is tastefully designed a place something to be proud of when you are treating someone for a lunch or dinner, I guess if you are from Auckland and tried the other Filipino restaurants then I would assume you know what I am talking about. Next is the price, while the tables and setting looks expensive it does not reflect to their menu items, they are priced reasonably well where lunch mains will cost you around $20.00 to $25.00 per plate. Finally the ingredients used never was discounted given their prices and the presentation was great, plating is really done well.
It’s not a big restaurant but based on our last visit I guess it can seat around 40 to 50 people, seating was quite interesting as well as they have portions where the arrangement is like what you see in Japanese restaurant, there were normal seating tables as well as a long table for group functions. The kitchen is not hidden so you can see the chef in action. During our visit we were seated in the Japanese style tables and it’s beside the kitchen so we have a glimpse on how our food was made, I even got some tricks while looking at them. Most of the kitchen staff look Filipino to me but I might be wrong, one thing for sure the chef is a Filipino because it’s my ex-colleagues brother. For the non-kitchen staff there was no Filipinos and most of them were Kiwi’s which is a good thing especially when you want to promote Filipino food to non-Filipinos, this removes the cultural barrier between nationalities.
We went there for a late lunch and the place is still packed full, I was expecting Filipino diners but it was the opposite, were the only Filipinos in there. We were seated immediately and our orders was taken, there was even a special item on that day called “Chicken Kawali” and our waitress pronounced it properly in the Filipino way. We did not order those instead we ordered their Famous Crispy Pork Knuckle or what we call in the Philippines “crispy pata” ($22.00), then we also have some Signature Barbecue Pork Ribs ($22.00) and for entree we had some Pork and Prawn Quesadillas ($20.00), not a Filipino but because I saw how huge the prawns are when they were preparing it in the kitchen I got excited.
Let’s start with the Pork and Prawn Quesadillas, well this was so far the best quesadilla I ever tried, every bite was a surprise all the ingredients really blend and complement each other very well. Basically it’s made out of tortillas filled with pork, feta and roasted peanut topped with enormous prawns served with cilantro salsa, sweet chilli sauce and sour cream accompanied with apple atchara. Just look how pretty that is!
Next was the Signature Barbecue Pork Ribs, I ordered this because I knew this will taste like the Filipino barbecue and I was correct. This dish is made out of Very Tender Barbecue Pork Ribs in lemongrass flavour and pinipig crust served with crisp lettuce salad and onion pineapple jam. Again this was equally as excellent as our entree, it was full of flavour and indeed it feels like eating a posh version of the Pinoy barbecue.
Finally the best of the bunch, the Famous Crispy Pata Pork Knuckle, basically it’s a deep fried pork leg served with fennel pear slaw, mixed salad, coco shrimp onion dip (a posh version of bagoong). The pata was served with bone but it was already pre sliced so you can still maintain composure while eating them. This was served with salad so I have to order extra rice being a Filipino, meat is really tender, the skin is so crispy and take note it’s not oily. The bagoong dip is really a bagoong but not revolting enough to make non Filipinos hate it.
Next up was the dessert and this was an amazing experience, here is why. After our lovely meal we decided to have some dessert, we then asked for the dessert menu and waited. It took a while for the menu to arrive so we got a little upset so we asked again where the dessert menu was. To our surprise they brought over the selection they have in a tray. So everything you see in this picture below was placed on a tray with their prices.
Now we understood why it was so slow as they are preparing it and placing it in the tray. The visual impact was amazing and made us wanted more as we can see it physically in front of us, like calling our names and telling us, “me me me me…” and so we did. We the dessert tasting platter ($8.00) which consists of 3 desserts, don’t know if this is correct as I can’t remember the names but one is the some sort of pecan tart, then a chocolate fudge cake and a macaron that tastes like limoncello with chocolate ganache filling. These were awesome and when you order this try to eat them in order they gave it to you so you appreciate the flavours of each.
Another dessert was this Hazelnut Bavarois ($10.00) which is like a cream mousse with cream chocolate, mandarin, hazelnut and almond crumble, this was even better one of the best desserts I had for a while. Every element of this dessert complements each other and it was really divine. It also reminds me of sansrival as it shares a similar after taste because of the crumble.
Overall the whole experience was amazing, food was really great and really something to be proud of, in fact I am planning to bring my team here perhaps for a dinner, I also promote this to people I know. So if you live in Auckland and wanna try Filipino dishes or if you are a Filipino and wanna treat your non-Filipino friends who are asking for aa good Filipino food, or even just a Filipino who wants to try a posh version of some dishes you grew up with this is a highly recommended place, it will not let you down. Definitely I will treat my guests here even my friends.