Ever been to a meal in a restaurant, where cutlery was banned and plates were nowhere to be seen? Instead, the table is set with banana leaves and you are expected to use nature’s silverware – your fingers to enjoy the meal.
Eating with hands is common in many parts of the world, including Asia, Africa and the Middle East. A no-utensils menu creates more of a social atmosphere and heightens the connection to the food you are eating. That is exactly what happens at the Kusina Filipino Restaurant monthly ‘Boodle Feast’.
A ‘Boodle Feast’ or as it was originally named a ‘Boodle Fight’ was created as a way to feed large numbers of the military. The food is served atop banana leaves and eaten ‘kamayan’ style, Filipino for ‘eating with the hands’.
Kusina in Cooleman Court, Weston Creek is carrying on this fun and communal Filipino tradition at their much-beloved restaurant. Siblings and owners Leilani Fox and Jonathan Ora grew up in and around the restaurant business. Their father owned and operated Canberra’s very first Filipino restaurant in the early 1980’s: the ‘Manila’ in Phillip.
Leilani is credited as being the brains behind Kusina. She planted the seed in her brother’s head to open a Filipino restaurant and to carry on with their dad’s dream to introduce the flavours of Filipino food to Canberra and in October 2012, Kusina opened their doors for the very first time.
“Having Filipino food as such a big part of our lives, we wanted to bring Filipino food and culture into the mainstream and opened Kusina,” said Jonathan.
“Filipino cuisine is all about comfort food. Filipino food is a melting pot of different taste sensations adopting many flavours from Spanish, Malay and Chinese cuisines. It’s served family style and you will never leave hungry. My favourite way of eating is at the Boodle Feast, strictly no cutlery and platters of food served on banana leaves eaten with your hands.”
Walking in for our first Boodle Feast was a pretty simple process. With an advance booking, all the other details are taken care of. The Chef curates the menu of Filipino favourites, so there is no order required. The only decision diners have to make is what beverage to enjoy: you can either BYO wine or pick a soft drink or traditional juice. We tried the tangy Calamansi juice with sweetened cumquat and a refreshing Four Seasons juice with pineapple, guava, mango and orange.
Then the food arrived. All atop a mound of rice, there were generous portions of sticky Inihaw na liempo; a grilled pork belly marinated with sweet soy marinade, and Pritong Manok; crispy chicken wings on a skewer along with prawns, mussels, salad and an interesting addition of tater tots. It was plentiful and as Jonathan promised, nobody was leaving our table hungry.
The restaurant was full of happy diners the night we visited, all eager to experience the Boodle Feast and support Kusina. The restaurant had publicly announced on their social media pages that they would be shutting their doors but the outpouring of sadness and encouragement from customers was overwhelming and buoyed the owners to stay open.
Jonathan said, “We have experienced so much support from the surrounding community. Having a restaurant is so tough and we almost closed this month. We announced it on Facebook in May but after reading all the comments with nothing but love, it made us want to keep trying so we are currently trying to negotiate a longer lease. Now the plan is to keep open as long as we can with the support of Canberrans.”
Kusina Restaurant is located at Cooleman Court in Weston Creek and is open seven days a week but the Boodle Feast is only available on the first Sunday of every month and bookings are required.