For my 2nd Winterlicious 2015 experience, my sister and I chose to go for some Filipino food. I have a special spot in my heart for Casa Manila. It was the first Filipino restaurant I’ve been to in Toronto and I’ve taken my family there whenever they come to visit. We even got our Christmas dinner from them one year. They just make great traditional Filipino fare and I was glad they were participating in this year’s Winterlicious.
I’d like to take a second to point out just how many options they have on their Winterlicious menu. While some restaurants have three or four appetizers, entrees and desserts to choose from, Casa Manila has 5 appetizers, 8 entrees and 4 desserts to choose from, which would normally be a wonderful thing, but for someone who loves everything, like me, it was torture.
For the appetizers, I hesitated between BBQ Skewers, Spring Rolls or Arroz Caldo but opted for the latter, since it’s a rice soup that’s perfect for winter. We all ended up ordering the same appetizer. While it did warm us up, we thought it could use a little less ginger.
Once again, I had a dilemma when it came to the main dishes. While adobo is a classic choice and the most well-known Filipino dish, it’s easy to make at home so we didn’t order that. I love Filipino stews like Kare Kare, our peanut stew, which it might seem weird to use peanut butter in a stew but it works well. Plus there’s Kaldereta, a tomato beef stew, which is what my sister and Keith chose. I had a bite and it tasted good, but this time it needed more of the sauce and more veggies. Keith would’ve wanted it served in a bowl so he could dip some bread in it, but we don’t really do that in the Philippines. We eat almost everything with rice.
Fun fact: Filipinos love their pork, so it was no surprise that there were two pork belly main dishes on the menu, one grilled and one fried. I opted for the grilled pork belly, Inihaw Liempo, marinated in their secret sweet and salty sauce. Served with rice and dipped in vinegar, it was just as good as I remember it from back home.
All in all, while we had some minor suggestions, we enjoyed the food and left very full. If you’ve never tried Filipino cuisine before, Winterlicious at Casa Manila is a great introductory experience.