Askal, Melbourne CBD

MELBOURNE | Before the pandemic hit, Filipino-Australian chef John Rivera dreamt of opening his own contemporary Filipino restaurant. The pandemic put these plans on ice, but gave Melburnians (and soon Sydneysider) the silver lining of Kariton Sorbites, which might otherwise have never existed. Fast forward to today, and that contemporary Filipino restaurant has just opened. It’s called Askal, and is a place you’ll want to check out.

Askal is owned by John, who is also the culinary director, along with executive chef Dhenvirg Ugot, restaurant manager Carlos Consunji, mixologist Ralph Libo-on, and builder turned restaurateur Michael Mabuti. It’s a gun team, and their experience and passion is already shining early on.

Named after the stray street dogs of the Philippines, Askal is about serving up “unadulterated Filipino food”, and showing Melburnians what Filipino food is all about. It taps into the city’s increasing desire to learn more about the cuisine, driven by other recent openings like Chibog, Serai, and CEERE. The food at Askal is traditional at heart, but elevated and playful at the same time.

John’s questioning of why certain ingredients and techniques form part of a culinary tradition comes through in the food. He has the lens of his culture, and the food that he grew up with, but also the lens of a classically trained fine dining chef, and someone who has eaten a lot of great food from other cultures.

Sigsig, for example, contains pork jowl, balanced with sliced abalone, fermented rice, and salted chilli. It’s served with lettuce leaves to be eaten as cups. Doughnuts are filled and topped with kare-kare (a thick stew with peanut sauce), while tutong silog features wonderfully intense black garlic fried rice with salted duck egg and longganisa hamonado. Chargrilled king prawns with crab fat alavar, finger lime, kamias, and curry leaf are another must order – be sure to get the optional miso caramelised onion piaya to scoop up the sauce.

For dessert, there’s a light take on halo halo, featuring late season stone fruit, ume, chrysanthemum, and almond. For something richer, try the creamy leche flan with blackened vanilla and Tanduay caramel.

To drink it’s house beer, fun wine, and cocktails that draw from the same inspiration as the food. While awaiting final approval on their liquor license, there’s a selection of mocktails on offer. Already a crowd favourite is the kawawa colada, a mix of coconut half and half, mango nectar, durian, lime, and non-alc aperitif buko foam. Speaking of drinks and snacks, keep an eye out for Askal’s rooftop bar which is slated to open soon.


167 Exhibition Street
Victoria 3000

Telephone: (03) 9650 6543
E-mail: n/a

Tue – Sat: 5:30pm to 10:30pm



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