Friday, March 21, 2014

Lamesa Filipino Kitchen's New Menu

I still have very fond memories of the tasting menu I had at Lamesa Filipino Kitchen a year and a half ago. I remember describing it as a "rock-solid meal" which is why, to this very day, I still recommend this Queen West restaurant to my friends whenever they are looking for something different. Something unique.

Responsible for putting modern Filipino cuisine on the culinary map here in Toronto are second generation Filipinos Rudy Boquila and Les Sabilano. With Lamesa, the duo has successfully combined traditional tastes of the Philippines with modern takes and local ingredients. As Sabilano puts it Filipino food, the Lamesa way, is “all about taking a regional approach to Filipino food. Each of the 7000+ islands in the Philippines has developed their own style based on their customs, surroundings and what is locally available. For us, Toronto is just another island. Our style is shaped by our environment and where and how we grew up.

Last week, I was invited to Lamesa's (Twitter: @LamesaTO, Facebook: Lamesa) new menu launch where I sampled numerous dishes spanning their brunch, dinner and late night menus. Aside from the updated menu, Lamesa's bar also received a dramatic makeover (check out how the bar was before). I personally love the new bar especially the psychedelic glow in the background. Pretty trippy :) 

Speaking of bar, I enjoyed several cocktails that evening. My favourite would be this classic hip hop inspired Lolo Cool J cocktail which consisted of ginger, bourbon, pineapple and cinnamon syrup, lemon juice, and ginger ale.

Live music throughout the night courtesy of DATU. These guys are fantastic.

Here's a look at what I had at the media tasting (note that these are all sample sizes specially made for the evening):

CRISPY PATA (brunch / dinner)
Deep fried pork trotter with pickles and housemade dipping sauces

Egg dipped bread with sweet plantain and jackfruit wrapped in spring roll served with coconut whip

PORK & PANCAKES (brunch)
Sarsi braised pork with corn and coconut pancakes and a jackfruit syrup

LUMPIA (late night)
Ground pork spring rolls served with housemade banana ketchup

ARROZ CALDO (brunch)
Rice porridge, chicken, chicharon, crispy kale and fried garlic

Pork, coconut milk, chilies, and bagoong over housemade fries

Crispy fried chicken with a garlic puree, pickled chayote, and an adobo gastrique

Roasted squash, beans, greens, eggplant with a coconut cream sauce

Before dessert we learned that not only is head chef Rudy Boquila passionate about food he is also passionate about music. As a producer / musician / DJ, Boquila has produced some classic Toronto tracks (he also has a massive record collection to boot!) and as a chef, he started at the Bamboo and went on to work at Oyster Boy and the Gladstone Hotel. Chef Rudy also spent some time cooking on tour with Live Nation for groups like U2, Bon Jovi, AC DC, Aerosmith, etc. 

Here's a short clip of chef Rudy jammin' with his band DATU:

After the performance it was time for dessert! We each made our own Halo-Halo at the Halo-Halo station.

HALO HALO (dessert)
Coconut strings, sweet purple yam, sugar, palm fruit, and jackfruit with buko cream pandan ice cream with shaved ice and carnation milk

Call me bias but I knew I was in for a treat even before this media night because if the tasting menu a year and a half ago is any indication of what Lamesa is capable of then I knew I'm in good hands. As expected (and 'cause I'm always right) Boquila's new menu did not disappoint. He has thoughtfully applied the traditionally sweet, sour and salty flavours of Filipino food with ingredients that we are all familiar with, then works his magic to create some very delicious fusion plates. I thought the Fil-Can brunch items were especially fun and whimsical, such as Boquila's version of the French toast which had bread, plantain and jackfruit all wrapped in spring roll. Amazing! His savoury pancakes topped with tender braised pork was equally stellar. One of my favourite dishes at Recipe For Change 2014 was Lamesa's Arroz Caldo so I was really happy to see it at the new menu launch. Similar to congee, this smooth rice porridge is so warm and comforting (hangover brunch item?) One thing's for sure, I will need to revisit Lamesa for their chicken adobe! Seriously that one bite of fried chicken left me hanging; it was so tasty I wanted 10 more (note to Lamesa: it's really cruel to serve just one bite of fried chicken like really is!) As for the Halo-Halo I've already raved about it last time but this time was extra fun because we got to make our own :) However, what I really need to try next is their Ginataan Sundae, a beautiful concoction of ube, tapioca, brown butter polvoron, caramel corn, and coconut whipped cream.

Kudos to the Lamesa team for a wonderful night of great drinks, food, and music, and keep up the great work in exposing Filipino cuisine to the mainstream! Your Fil-Can brunch looks amazing and I will try my best to make it down for brunch but rest assured you will definitely see me soon for your 11+ course tasting menu :)

*This meal was complimentary. The opinions and views expressed on this post are my own*

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