Exactly two years ago, I wrote about my first ever kamayan dinner at Lamesa Filipino Kitchen, a Filipino feast where beautifully presented food is laid out on banana leaves. There are no utensils or plates; you eat with your hands because that is the kamayan way. It was an unforgettable experience, from watching the chefs expertly plate each component on the table, to finally devouring the wonderful, delicious-looking spread in front of me. What topped it off was the interaction at the table. My friends and I would trade tips on how best to pick up rice with our fingers, what sauce tasted incredible with what, and just occasionally hearing friends say things like "Oh my God, this garlic rice!!" then seeing everyone at the table nod 'cause we all feel the same way...it's precisely this sort of interaction that made my first kamayan experience so memorable.
So, needless to say, I was thrilled to be invited back to Lamesa (Instagram: @lamesato, Facebook: Lamesa) last week for yet another kamayan dinner, this time, for their vegetarian version. To be honest, I've never dined at a restaurant and not order at least one meat dish. What can I say? I love my meat. Naturally, a part of me was bit weary about this whole vegetarian kamayan idea, but at the same time, I have full confidence that the Lamesa chefs will put out something great because they always do. If anything, I was more curious and intrigued about what they have up their sleeves!
Lamesa's cocktails are generally pretty basic looking, no frills or any fancy garnish, but trust me, all of them are very good. Also, their names are hilarious, like "Manila Heat" and "Tequila Negroneezy".
BAGUIO BAGYO ($12)
Star anise infused dark rhum, calamansi juice, ginger beer
LOLO COOL J ($12)
Bourbon, ginger, pineapple syrup, and lemon
Lamesa's kamayan "hand-to-mouth" dinners are offered every Sunday evening from 5-9pm. It is a set menu priced at $40 per guest ($10 per child). It is worth noting that besides regular and vegetarian, they also have a pescatarian kamayan option.
Without further ado, let's get right into it! Here we have owner Les Sabilano (in green) and executive chef Daniel Cancino taking turns plating the table. I really like how they would tell the guests what they were plating, sometimes even with a little history/background of the ingredient and its origin.
After what seemed like an endless amount of food being plated, it sadly came to an end. And take a look at this spread, will you? Isn't it gorgeous?
Below are the 17 components of Lamesa's vegetarian kamayan:
1. Coconut dill ranch 2. Soy garlic puree 3. Sawsawan gel 4. Mango hot sauce 5. Fresh calamansi 6. Devilled egg paksiw 7. Garlic fried rice 8. Garlic chips 9. Green maalat salad 10. Humba lettuce wrap 11. Ginataan cauliflower 12. Adobong talong 13. Broccolini kare kare 14. Kalabasa 15. Okra pakbet 16. Sweet soy bok choy 17. Kalabasa cornbread
What a terrific kamayan. I didn't craving meat during the entire dinner, and to my surprise, I was actually really full afterwards (I still had room for dessert but that's the norm). To start off, the sauces...wow! Especially that mango hot sauce; sweet yet packs such a good heat. It's a perfectly balanced mango hot sauce (Lamesa will be bottling it soon!). Next, I didn't expect to like the tofu lettuce wrap because I mean, c'mon, it doesn't even sound good, but man, was it amazing! I really enjoyed the bold flavours from the okra, eggplant and bok choy, which brought out their wonderful textures, as well as the vinegar-y deviled egg. The more filling components, such as the kalabasa (squash), cornbread and garlic fried rice were my favourites. The one thing that I did not care for was the fried cauliflower. Although it had good flavour, I didn't enjoy the soft and slightly soggy coating, since I expected it to be crispy/crunchy.
For dessert, we had the Ube Leche Flan, a must-order at Lamesa, as well as the Banana Chocolate Cake, which was decadent and delicious, but definitely not as impressive as the Ube Leche Flan. I was a bit bummed that they didn't have the Halo Halo that night.
UBE LECHE FLAN ($8)
Purple yam custard, calamansi gel, puffed rice
BANANA CHOCOLATE CAKE ($8)
Coconut mousse, dolce de leche, raspberries, and walnut
I cannot recommend Lamesa's vegetarian kamayan enough, especially for vegetarians. Even if you are not a vegetarian, you should check out Lamesa for a unique dining experience in the city. I also think kamayan is great for kids, since they would have so much fun eating with their hands! It's the perfect opportunity to introduce them to Filipino cuisine.
*This meal was complimentary. The opinions and views expressed on this post are my own*