I will bet five dollars and a pack of gum that you can name an Italian restaurant off the top of your head. Chinese? Done. Chances are you can also recommend a decent Indian restaurant, Jamaican spot, Japanese, or Mexican. But tell me about your favourite Filipino restaurant. That’s a tough one. Despite all the countries represented in Toronto’s food scene, Filipino dishes are hard to come by.
Lamesa Filipino Kitchen opened a year ago on Queen Street West and quickly became a popular destination for those wanting a taste of pancit, halo halo, pork adobo, and lumpia. But Lamesa is not food a Filipino grandmother would cook — the Sabilano family that owns Lamesa intentionally modernized the food and made it more upscale. Les Sabilano calls it “Filipino nouveau” with authentic flavours, but with the addition of new techniques and presentation not common to Filipino dishes.
All the cooks at Lamesa are Filipino. Lead by head chef Rudy Boquila, the ingredients are fresh and the modern updates on classic dishes are full of colour and flavour. Not sure what to order? Lamesa offers a deal of a prix fixe menu for $30 that includes an appetizer, main, dessert, and two small tasting courses.
Lamesa’s Crispy Pork Belly Adobo ($17) is pork belly cured and confit in duck fat for 12 hours, then flash fried until crispy and served with greens, fingerling potatoes, garlic confit, black garlic puree, and pickled chayote.
While all the desserts offered have a Filipino influence, go for the most classic with the Halo Halo ($7). The Filipino version of a shaved ice treat (popular in many Asian countries) features sweetened beans, coconut gel, jackfruit, coconut, Carnation milk and sugar over shaved ice. You don’t want beans on ice for dessert? For shame. It also includes housemade ice cream.
The timing is great to grab a taste of Filipino food. Lamesa is doing a Father’s Day Brunch this weekend with eggs, roast beef, and Filipino dishes. There are three seatings and at only $20 a person, you can certainly pick up the tab for your pops. To get an even more authentic taste of Filipino cuisine, Lamesa will be serving a dinner buffet tomorrow night (June 12) to celebrate Philippine Independence Day ($30/pp). Check the website under “events” for the menu and make sure you make a reservation for the buffet or brunch. Now you can confidently recommend a Filipino restaurant should anyone ever ask.
Follow Lamesa Filipino Kitchen on Twitter: @LamesaTO