Brought to us by the same team as Lamesa, Lasa by Lamesa (Instagram: @lasabylamesa) is a quick-service Filipino eatery on St. Clair West at Wychwood Avenue. Unlike Lamesa, which is known for its modern and creative take on Filipino food, owner Les Sabilano and executive chef Daniel Cancino focuses on traditional Filipino fare at Lasa.
Even though Lasa is a fast-casual spot, rest assured that they still make everything fresh to order. The 3-month-old eatery has no servers so both ordering and picking up food happens at this counter. Choose from water, pop or juice to accompany your meal (Lasa is not licensed).
Previously occupied by Kaibigan, a grocery store ran by Sabilano's parents, Lasa has been completely transformed. The 24-seat space is casual, yet quaint and welcoming. I specifically like the wicker lamps and the cute accent pieces on the wall.
Notice the different pops of colours and the custom wood work on the door. The room has a chill tropical feel to it, which is really inviting on a cold winter's night.
A station complete with plates, utensils, napkins, sauces and water.
Lasa's menu is divided into four parts: Inihaw (grilled), Gulay (vegetables), Stews and Pritong (fried). Aside from the Silog Combo Plate for One, everything else is pretty much portioned for two people. My friend, who is Chinese-Filipino, is obviously way more knowledgeable about Filipino food than I am (I'm slowly getting more familiar it from the meals at his parents' house!) This dinner at Lasa was my first time having traditional Filipino food other than at his parents' place so I was pretty excited :)
BBQ PORK SKEWERS (Top, $2.50 ea)
Marinated pork in a sweet BBQ glaze
These skewers were so great I wish we had another order. Marinated in a secret blend of spices, sauces and 7UP, the pork was tender in texture and very juicy. The meat was also caramelized so there was a slight crispiness with every bite. A squeeze of calamansi is all you need here.
LECHON KAWALI (Bottom, $10)
Deep fried Filipino style crispy pork belly
Filipinos know their pork, this deep fried pork belly was off the hook! The super crispy and crunchy skin and exterior were salty, while the melting fat and meat underneath was tender and moist. Check out those bubbles on the skin! We chose the fish sauce to go with the pork belly, which worked really well in cutting the fattiness of the pork.
GINATAAN ($10, $14 with shrimp)
Squash, bok choy and green beans in a coconut broth
"Ginataan" is a Filipino term which refers to food cooked with coconut milk. Lasa's version of ginataan was lighter than what my friend is used to, with the broth being much thinner and delicate. The gentle coconut flavour was still very delicious, but I also wish the broth was more rich and creamy, and less runny.
COMBO PLATE FOR ONE ($12)
Bangus served with garlic rice, mixed green salad, and a duck egg (choice of banus, bbq skewers, fried chicken or tofu)
For just $2 more, I would definitely choose the Silog over the Ginataan (Silog is short for "Sinangag" which stands for fried rice and "Itlog" which stands for egg). I know I'm comparing apples to oranges, a veggie dish versus a combo plate with everything, but I'm just purely basing it on value for money and my preferences after trying both plates. Bangus, or Milkfish, is the national fish of the Philippines, and here it's deboned and fried. Again, perfect with a squeeze of calamansi and/or with fish sauce. The garlic rice with egg was pure comfort, and the mixed green salad on the side was nice and refreshing to the palette.
OXTAIL KARE KARE ($18)
Braised oxtail in a peanut garlic sauce with bok choy, beans, and eggplant served with peanut and fermented shrimp paste
Lasa's version of Oxtail Kare Kare was, again, a lighter version than what my friend and I were used to. My friend's dad's version is much bolder in peanut flavour, with the stew itself being more rich and thick. Having said that, the bagoong alamang, or fermented shrimp paste, greatly enhanced the flavour and savouriness of the stew (be careful how much shrimp paste you use because it is very briny and strong in flavour). I also thought the oxtail could be more tender and soft as it was pretty chewy in some parts. The dish doesn't come with rice so I suggest ordering rice or garlic rice so you wouldn't waste all that tasty sauce.
CASSAVA CAKE WITH UBE ICE CREAM ($7)This slice of sweet and chewy cake topped with puffed rice cereal was fantastic. I wish I can have cassava cake more often because I really love its dense and chewy texture (think mochi but way more chewy...in a good way). As expected, the purple yam ice cream gets all the praises from us, too.
Dine in or take-out, I'm really happy to know that I can now get home-style Filipino food at Lasa. I still have many classics that I want to try there, such as Lumpia Shanghai, Pancit, Chicken Adobo, and Pork Rib Sinigang. Till next time!