Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Lamesa Filipino Kitchen

I've never had Filipino food before my dinner at Lamesa Filipino Kitchen (Twitter: @LamesaTO, Facebook: Lamesa). I've always been interested in trying it but whenever I ask my Filipino friends (the best source!) where I should go for Filipino food in Toronto, 95% of them will say "nowhere" with the rest of the 5% "at my Mom's / Grandparent's / Aunt's house". Great! Awesome! That really helps! Evidently, the best source quickly became the most useless source to me when it came down to finding Filipino food in the city. I soon gave up asking and Filipino cuisine remained a mystery.

Based on those replies alone, it made me wonder why such a big city like Toronto lacked a Filipino restaurant that my Filipino friends can recommend to me. I mean, if someone asked me what's a good place for Chinese food, I could easily name a few. Also, with so many Asian restaurants and the different variety available for each type (i.e. izakaya / teppanyaki / sushi / sashimi for Japanese, Cantonese / Shanghainese / dim sum for Chinese, BBQ / stews for Korean, etc) in downtown Toronto, it is even more puzzling why Filipino food is not more prominent, especially in a city with over 200,000 Filipinos.  Anyway, curiosity aside, when Lamesa opened at Queen and Bathurst in May, that all changed. As in, when I asked my Filipino friends about Lamesa and whether or not they have been, they all told me yes, they have been to Lamesa, it is awesome and I need to check it out. Whoaaa :)

My friend Cindy and I went to Lamesa last week for their $35 five course tasting menu (you can order a la carte as well but Lamesa strongly recommends the tasting). 

Very clean lines with a touch of contemporary at Lamesa. The wall sconces and ceiling fans add a Spanish feel to the space.


Tito Papino - Gin, Cointreau, cucumber, watermelon, mint, and freshly squeezed lime ($12)

AMUSE: Corn Ginataan with Double Smoked Bacon

Halo Halo Sisig - Chicken, pork, and beef with garlic, chilies, and onions, Filipino style pico de gallo, topped with a fried egg ($8)

Steamed rice

Mushroom Pancit Bam-i - Roasted mushrooms, mung bean and canton noodles, beans, carrots, and cabbage ($8)

AMUSE: Heirloom Tomato, Pickled Pearl Onion, Fish Sauce Caramel 

AMUSE: Scallop Escabeche - Pan Seared scallop with caramelized onions, red peppers, gastrique

Short Rib Kare Kare - Braised beef, long beans, eggplant, bok choy in a peanut garlic sauce with bagonng chitlins ($25)

Crispy Pork Belly Adobo - Confit pork belly with soy, vinegar, and bay leaf with a black garlic puree ($23)

PRE-DESSERT: Yellow sugar baby watermelon & calamansi shooter with black pyrus salt

Leche Flan - Filipino style creme caramel ($7)

Calamansi Cheesecake - Calamansi no bake cheesecake with a coconut and pinipig polvoron ($7)

Halo Halo - roasted coconut gel, sweet red beans, sweetened plantain, leche flan, housemade ice cream, pinipig, over shaved frozen coconut water with evaporated milk ($10)

Every course at Lamesa was rock solid. The corn ginataan with smoked bacon amuse was an impressive start to the evening; it was simple yet had really nice contrasting flavours (sweetness from the corn, smoky / savoury from the bacon). Break the egg yolk, mix the meats and the salsa together, the halo halo sisig was outstanding with rice. Meanwhile, the lighter mung bean noodles with mushrooms was fresh and full of texture. Impeccable plates for course one...and it continues! I cannot emphasize enough just how crispy the pork belly adobe was. SO good (it also reminded me of my Mom's pork belly dish). The braised short rib kare kare was extremely tender, so tender that I was able to separate it with just a fork. Both the pork belly and short rib was divine in itself, but in my opinion, it was the sauce that really elevated the plates and brought all the elements together. Course three: dessert. I couldn't get enough of the calamansi cheesecake; think coconut and crumbly shortbread dusted on top of luscious cheese. Yessss! And just when I thought it was time to roll out of Lamesa, utterly and completely satisfied, the Lamesa team brought out the halo halo, the show-stopper of all show-stoppers when it comes to Filipino dessert. Wow. I couldn't ask for a better ending to the night than the halo halo. Thank you, Lamesa, for the amazing meal and the extra goodies that night! 

I'm genuinely grateful and happy that Lamesa is finally giving Filipino food the presence it deserves in Toronto and showcasing the cuisine in a way that is modern, with a unique twist, yet still maintaining authentic flavours. Keep it up, guys!

Lamesa Filipino Kitchen on Urbanspoon

 Lamesa at