My nightly drive home from work is punctuated by a number of smells, and a recent addition to this olfactory journey is that of Smoky Cravings, a relatively new Filipino BBQ joint in the vicinity of Mcdonald’s Lakemba (where we parked). Though we normally look at distaste at people who do not order the culturally significant dishes at ethnic restaurants and only order what’s easy and safe-feeling, this was me this time. I just wasn’t in the mood for any kind of intestine. I’ve had them, and just don’t generally enjoy them and felt no need to again subject myself to them.
Instead, I went with some safe options, like these battered and deep fried quail eggs (kwek kwek – $5), which were not super special, but came out quickly and had a great batter for us to munch on whilst awaiting the rest of our food.
As far as grilled meat went, we had the Pork BBQ skewer, Chicken BBQ skewer, BBQ Chicken Wings, Adidas, and BBQ Lamb Cutlets. The skewers were $3.50 each, whilst the lamb cutlet was $5.
Most of their food actually had the same sweet and salty flavour from the basting, which was quite enjoyable and not too unfamiliar tasting. The chicken BBQ skewer was a bit more substantial than the pork in terms of size, but both were quite juicy and flavourful. The BBQ Chicken Wing was quite large, consisting of both a drumstick and the wing in a three-part type deal, and made for good value, probably the best of the bunch, especially with its semi-crispy skin. The adidas (chicken feet) came as two feet on a skewer, perfect for sharing with your partner or nursing colleague from the local hospital a few minutes down the road. The lamb cutlet was my least favourite of the bunch, with a different flavour that I no longer remember. I only remember that I didn’t like it.
The chicken inasal ($12) was really big and juicy and perfectly marinated and grilled. It was one of the best things we ate, good value, and really well cooked. Juicier and moister than other forms of BBQ chicken in the local area (dominated by Middle Eastern-style charcoal chicken), very worth a go.
My partner liked the buko pandan ($5). It was not too sweet. Very viscous, our first ever with nothing else to compare it to.
OVERALL Smoky Cravings was a source of enjoyment. I haven’t always loved every Filipino restaurant that I’ve tried, but I’m glad that my nose led me to this one. The staff tried to talk to me in Tagalog, but despite deep workplace immersion neither my partner nor I have been able to pick up anything of note.
Our party of six went to Del Punto one Thursday evening, looked at the a la carte and tasting menus, pulled out our phones and decided we could do better. Instead of $80 per person for dishes picked by the restaurant we calculated that we could either get one of every item on the menu, or multiples of the things we wanted (read: everything with meat, only one dish without meat) for cheaper. Our waitress’ eyes widened as we finished telling her our order. She told us that we ordered way too much food. John took it a a challenge and ordered some more.
This air conditioner was about as decorative as the flowers surrounding it. Throughout the entire meal we felt like we were working on a quick paced production line. The food kept coming and coming in such rapid succession, with no attention paid to the small geographical size of our table. There was just no way that we could eat so fast so as to clear the table for more dishes to come. It almost felt like they were trying to punish us for ordering so much. Like we were running a spring that had turned into a marathon. Like we were hamsters running on wheels that generated power for the neighbouring town, and we would fall and get churned into the mechanism of the wheel and get crushed if we faltered. Twice during the meal we did ask the kitchen for a pause. It was just too much.
We shared a carafe of Peach, Strawberry, and Mint Sangria ($33.50). It was very refreshing, though not as refreshing as the large quantities of water we drank from reused spirit bottles. The strong flavours of the meal, the close proximity in which we were sitting, the rapid pace of food delivery, and the weak air conditioning meant that our meal was a very warm and thirsty affair.
The duck crepes ($20.50 for 4 pieces) were quite nice. They were served drizzled in a plum sauce, kind of reminiscent of what you would get in a Chinese restaurant. They were however much meatier than their Chinese counterparts, and as the first dish of the night really did herald a very meaty meal overall.
The garlic prawns ($23.50) pan fried and served with “a hint of chilli and parsley” were pretty good. The prawns were large and juicy, and there were quite a few for the price and location. The hint of chilli and parsley were just hints, however. They were very much garlic prawns, as advertised.
The beef empanadas (4 for $19.50, 6 for $28.50) were pretty good. Freshly fried with a nice filling of beef brisket and caramelised onion. I quite enjoyed the freshness of the jalapeno and feta dipping sauce.
I thought the salt and pepper whitebait ($17.50) was a bit weak. They were quite oily and salty, which aside from being dangerous to the coronaries are also not great to taste. My colleagues thought that they were OK when matched with the aioli, but I think that if I were to ever come back I would skip it entirely.
The chicken skewers (4 for $17.50, 6 for $25.50) marinated in yoghurt, paprika & oregano were pretty good!. I think they were tenderloins but my colleagues thought they were cut up breast. Regardless of what part of the chicken they came from they were quite tender and moist. The bed of rocket on which the chicken was served was demolished by one of my colleagues keen to get in his daily fibre intake. Ultimately though I think it was a mistake to get them, as they also came included in the paella.
Del Punto’s Lamb skewers (4 for $25.50, 6 for $38.50) were also very good but quite expensive. The meat was marinated in chimichurri, and very tender and flavourful. The sweet potato crisps on top were superfluous though I’m sure someone enjoyed them.
The Plato de Baleares ($16.50) with grilled halloumi, asparagus and cherry tomato in a pomegranate reduction was delicious. The cherry tomatoes were extremely juicy and made for the perfect burst of flavour and freshness when popped in the mouth.
I enjoyed the Baby Octopus ($18.50), topped with basil oil, lemon and lime juices, pesto, and sun dried tomato. The flavours were well balanced, and the octopus tender. This is some of the best octopus I’ve had recently.
The Pork Belly ($28.50 for 4 pieces, $43.50 for 6 pieces), is one of Del Punto’s house specialties and a real delight. The pieces of pork are very large, thick, and juicy, served with its crispy skin intact. The shots of green apple and brandy sauce added a welcome dimension of tart freshness. I can recommend this dish.
The Prawn & Chorizo skewers (4 for $19.50, 6 for $30.50) were pretty good, with big juicy prawns and slices of chorizo. This was our second prawn dish and first chorizo dish. We would soon feel the weight of repeated ingredients.
The sea scallops (4 for $20.50, 6 for $30.50) with sliced morcilla blood sausage served on a bed of pea puree I could’ve gone without. The scallops were small and unimpressive, as were the flavours. I’ve certainly paid less for better scallop dishes.
The Tumbet ($17.50) – layers of potato, eggplant & grilled capsicum topped with fried tomato & garlic – was our only vegetarian dish and the biggest disappointment of the night. It was all a bit mushed together, with no contrasting textures or flavours to really define its different components.
Our second chorizo dish, aptly named Chorizo ($17.50) consisted of longitudinally sliced chorizo with zucchini ribbons. This chorizo dish did nothing to really set itself out from the chorizo in the prawn and chorizo skewers. A mistake.
Del Punto’s Paella (Mediana size – $65) is their other signature dish, and a stark reminder of why we shouldn’t have just ordered everything that looked yummy on the menu. Notable repeats of this dish included 6 chicken skewers that were identical to the previous 6 chicken skewers, as well as a bunch of chorizo and prawn. That aside, and even though I was absolutely full at this point, this paella was the best paella I’ve ever had. I loved the flavorful and moist rice, mixed in with diced chorizo and pipis. My friends were less impressed however, being more widely eaten in the Spanish cuisines. A few of them thought that the bottom of the paella wasn’t extra-crisped enough. I didn’t realise that was a criteria for judgement.
VERDICT Overall we had a good but sweaty time at Del Punto.
Protips for dining at Del Punto include:
Avoid the set menu, just pick what you want. You will get more food for less money
If the waitress gives you an uneasy look and tells you you’ve ordred too much food, she probably knows better than your mate who has no stretch receptors in his stomach.
Make a special point to ask the kitchen to go slowly, and make sure to ask for pauses if you need. Otherwise they will try to feed you all at once until you drown.
If you’re going to get the paella, don’t double or triple up by getting all its constituent ingredients as share plates.
Del Punto 40 St Pauls St, Randwick NSW 2031 (02) 9398 2027