Category Archives: Food

A Filipino Foodie’s Review of Filipino Food

Ever since I made the move from Quebec to Ontario, I have been on the lookout for Filipino restaurants. There are more options here in Toronto than in my home province and I am super grateful since I crave Filipino food at least once a week. I live at Yonge and Lawrence so my go-to has been Casa Manila. They serve the classics family-style in huge portions and I’m never disappointed. However, I have been wanting to try Lamesa for years and when they opened their sister restaurant, Lasa by Lamesa, I added that to the list too. Lo and behold, this past week all the stars aligned and I was able to hit both restaurants and satisfy my craving…at least until next week.

Lasa by Lamesa serves traditional Filipino dishes in a casual setting. The restaurant is styled like a bright, colourful cafeteria and the reason I know this, despite never actually having eaten in there, is because my friends and I tried to come for dinner once but it was full and we were forced to go to Sea Witch next door (probably the best fish and chips in the city, highly recommend!). Fast forward to this past Saturday, we were celebrating our close friend Greg’s birthday and he just so happened to live in Forest Hill, a few blocks away from Lasa. So before we TTC-ed it to his aparment, I placed our dinner order on Foodora. We arrived on his doorstep at the exact same time as the delivery guy so I could not have planned it better. Lasa’s menu is easy to understand even if you have zero experience with Filipino food because they break it down into categories (Fried, Grilled, Stews, and Vegetables) with a description for each dish.

We had pancit (noodles), chicken adobo (stew made with vinegar, soy sauce and garlic), lumpia (spring rolls) and lechon kawali (deep fried pork belly), plus garlic rice, of course. Lesson number one of Filipino cuisine is you always need to have rice. The portions were more than enough for three people and they nailed the taste of each dish. The pancit was citrusy with crisp vegetables. The adobo was so flavourful. The lumpia and lechon were good but not as great as the first two dishes. The lumpia lost a little of its crispiness due to being in a container and my only gripe about the pork belly was that it needed sauce. We drizzled some of the adobo sauce over it and that made it better. All in all, it turned out to be a great takeout experience that I would definitely do again.

My second Filipino food experience this week happened on Wednesday when my girlfriends and I went to Lamesa in Queen West to catch up over dinner. From the first sip of their Lolo Cool J cocktail, I knew we were in for an amazing meal. Lamesa does a modern take on Filipino cuisine, which basically means they take a typical Filipino dish and update it. Please do not come here expecting traditional. If you want that, go to Lasa. That being said, I was looking forward to their interpretation of dishes that were very familiar to me. The following is a detailed description and review of each course we had at Lamesa but if you just want the highlights, skip to the end.

They were offering a tasting menu of $40 that night, not sure if that’s a special on Wednesdays but regardless we took full advantage. We immediately knew we made the right choice after devouring the amuse-bouche of Kinilaw (Filipino ceviche): pieces of albacore tuna with coconut, guacamole, calamansi (kinda like a small lime but sweeter), chili on a shrimp chip. It was fresh and bright with a kick from the chili and satisfying crunch from the chip. Kinilaw usually doesn’t have avocado in it, but the pairing of the guacamole with coconut worked so well.

The first appetizer was their take on arroz caldo (Filipino congee): it was made with butternut squash, ginger, miso, had a poached egg in the middle and charred brussel sprouts on top. They told us to break the egg and mix it in with the rest, which we did. Now this was a standout dish. I never in a million years would’ve thought to put butternut squash in arroz caldo, which usually uses just standard chicken broth. The squash gave it beautiful colour and depth. My friends who have limited experience with Filipino food loved it. The second appetizer was lumpia (spring rolls): stuffed with house corned brisket, Swiss cheese and cabbage with mustard and banana ketchup as dipping sauces. I was looking forward to this because I love corned beef (normally lumpia is filled with ground beef) but it didn’t impress me as much as the arroz caldo did. I really liked that they provided mustard not just ketchup but I couldn’t taste the Swiss cheese.

Now onto the main courses: the first of which was the national dish of the Philippines, adobo. Their version: seared chicken thigh with a soy vinegar jus, confit garlic and chimichurri drizzled on top. Absolutely enjoyed this, it reminded me of a fancier version of the classic chicken adobo served at Lasa. Both used chicken thighs which I prefer. The jus was a more concentrated version of the traditional adobo sauce but I really liked the crispy skin achieved by the searing and the clever addition of the chimichurri. This was accompanied by a vegetable dish of broccolini in a sauce of bagoong (fermented shrimp paste which sounds weird but don’t knock it until you try it), raisin, garlic, peanut and chili. The combination of those ingredients resulted in a sauce that can only be described as umami. Garlic rice accompanied these two dishes.

The second main course that took a little more time to make it to our table, providing us with a well-needed break from eating, was their take on Bicol Express (stew in coconut milk): pork shoulder in a spicy coconut jus on coconut polenta with poblano and jalapeno. The second vegetable dish was ginataan (which literally means “done with coconut milk”): house made squash bread topped with coconut ranch, cauliflower with sambal and fennel. Both of these dishes had similar flavour profiles: coconut and spice. It was a good thing all three of us enjoyed coconut. Being the carnivore that I am, I liked the pork shoulder more. The others preferred the vegetable dish, especially the spicy, crispy cauliflower which was the surprise highlight. Jasmine rice accompanied these last two dishes.

By the time dessert was served, we were full but more than willing to make room for their ube leche flan: purple yam custard with calamansi gel topped with puffed rice. I was skeptical when I read this on the menu but it was deliciously executed. Leche flan is the Filipino version of crème caramel. Similar to what they did with the arroz caldo, the addition of the purple yam made it prettier and more interesting flavour-wise. The sour calamansi balances out the sweetness and my friend who didn’t like it at first bite quickly realized it was only because she didn’t eat the gel with it.

I could not have asked for a better dining experience at Lamesa. While there are definite standouts on their menu (the kinilaw, the arroz caldo, the adobo and the ginataan), all the courses we were served from their tasting menu were very creative and a delicious take on Filipino classics. I didn’t know it was possible to transform the dishes I fell in love with as a child into fancier, more modern fare. Filipino food deserves its place on the more high-end spectrum of the culinary world and I for one am super grateful that Lamesa is leading the way. I can’t wait to come back and try their Kamayan (no utensils) option on Sundays. 

Verdict: If you have never tried Filipino food before, I would suggest going to Lasa first so you can experience the authentic Filipino staples then visit Lamesa to be blown away by the inventive flavours they dish out. If you do try Lamesa, I recommend making a reservation because it’s a small space and they had to turn people away when we went. Happy eating!

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Friday Favorites

Happy Friday! Another busy week of 2015 down. March has just crept up on me and I will be turning 25 on Monday. I’m also starting a new job next week so the blog might take a backseat until I get my bearings. In the meantime, here are a few fun things we’ve done recently:

We went to the Insurgent Premiere in Toronto and Jai Courtney was there (which was the best part of the whole experience)!


While I didn’t celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this year as much as I used to, at least a little green beer was had:

Speaking of beer, we finally used up a $50 gift certificate from The 3 Brewers:


Happy weekend everyone!

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Tasty Tuesday: St. Patrick’s Day Recipe Round-Up

I remember St. Patrick’s Day being a big deal while in university, but once you graduate, it becomes one of the holidays you don’t have time to celebrate, especially when it falls on a weeknight. That doesn’t mean you have to totally ignore it. Here are some recipes that we might try tonight:

Guinness Beef Stew Recipe from The Brown-Eyed Baker
Love Guinness so this recipe already had me from its name

Uncorned Beef and Roasted Cabbage Wedges from Martha Stewart
A modern take on the Irish classic

Irish Apple Beer Cake from The Beeroness

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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Friday Favorites

Happy Friday! Another hectic week has come and gone. I for one am planning on catching up on sleep and hopefully (FINALLY) start the 3rd season of House of Cards. Here are a few of my favorite things from the past couple of days:



International Women’s Day on Sunday

Yummy nachos we made when my siblings stayed over

Back to playing DnD on a semi-regular basis. Our last battle was awesome!

Hope you all have a great weekend!

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Tasty Tuesday: Brunch at Lady Marmalade REVIEW

Two weekends ago, my best friends from Quebec came to visit. Since I value sleep and don’t usually make it out to brunch in Toronto, they took matters into their own hands and chose the restaurant we were going to that Saturday morning based on some Internet research: Lady Marmalade in Leslieville.
We arrived a little before noon and the place was already packed with a line outside, which is typical for any good brunch place in Toronto. Luckily, the girls were used to waiting, because it’s the same deal in Montreal. The menu looked promising and the people inside looked happy with their dishes, which helped us deal with the cold winter morning.

Finally, it was our turn and I saw why it took so long, the space is small and the tables are all mismatched, which meant you had to wait for the perfect one to open up and accommodate your party. We got the one near the window, score! While waiting, Annick and I glimpsed other people having the hot chocolate with giant marshmallows. It was satisfying enough, if a little too sweet. We had to have them. She went with the Peanut Butter and Banana Bread Pudding, from the specials of the day. My other friend, Caro, and I ordered from their regular menu. She got the Huevos Rancheritos and I got the Pulled Pork Eggs Benny.
It might not seem fair because I don’t have shots of their meals, but they can vouch for what I’m about to say: my dish won brunch. The Pulled Pork Eggs Benny is one of the best eggs benedict, maybe even one of the best brunch dishes, I have ever had. It’s packed full of flavour, the pork was tender, the eggs were perfectly cooked, the hollandaise worked amazingly with the citrus marinated onions. It was melt-in-your-mouth goodness.

The girls still seemed to enjoy their dishes, even after tasting mine and casting jealous looks all throughout brunch. I definitely recommend this place and would love to come back to get the same thing I ordered. FYI: It is cash only.

Happy Tuesday!

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Friday Favorites

Happy Friday everyone! Work has been crazy busy this week so I needed a couple of pick-me-ups to stay energized.

Luckily Keith took over dinner duties and made some delicious dishes like the following, inspired by watching Masterchef Junior.

My new favorite chocolate bar

An impromptu date night at Nando’s

Some of my girlfriends from Montreal are coming for the weekend, plus my little brother and sister are staying with us for the week since they’re on March Break. On top of that, next week at work is supposed to be even busier, which means I might not be able to post everyday, but I will definitely try my best. In the meantime, I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

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Tasty Tuesday: Winterlicious Auberge du Pommier

It’s now time to talk about my last but certainly not least Winterlicious experience. We made this reservation first since I was very aware of how fast Oliver & Bonacini restaurants fill up doing Winterlicious. It’s a chance to go to one of their restaurants that you might not be able to afford normally. We lucked out because our 5-year anniversary fell during the last week of Winterlicious. We narrowed it down between Canoe or Auberge du Pommier, but the latter ultimately won because of proximity to our apartment.
On February 11th, we got all dolled up for our French fine dining experience at the rustic yet elegant venue that is Auberge du Pommier. We were so glad that it wasn’t stuffy fancy but more on the cozier side. Service was impeccable, from coat check to our very friendly, knowledgeable and attentive waitress.

I would like to apologize in advance for not taking photos of what the boyfriend ate, but his shots always turn out blurry. I’ll just describe the dishes he chose and what he thought. For the appetizer, he opted for the White Bean Velouté with smoked sturgeon, sweet sour onion jam, warm bean salad and scallion crème fraîche. He found the soup good, although the sturgeon was overpowering at times. I ordered the Seafood Rémoulade: crab & poached shrimp salad, grated celery root, Bibb lettuce and Meyer lemon aïoli.
While I would have preferred the crab to be in larger chunks, the shrimp was very tasty and the lemon aïoli lifted the dish. It came with sliced grapes which worked well, but croutons which were unnecessary in my opinion.

We both got the exact same main dish that we’ve been eyeing since the Winterlicious menu was announced: Filet of Ontario Beef served with sweet & sour beets, sautéed spinach, horseradish & cauliflower purée and sauce Bordelaise.
The beef was to-die for. Perfectly medium-rare, sprinkled with coarse salt and super tender that a steak knife was not required at all. I wish it came with even more of the yummy Bordelaise sauce. I typically don’t like beets, but I didn’t mind them. The purée was deliciously creamy and tasted like mashed potatoes.

As for dessert, Keith got the Beignet: fried donuts, apple cider parfait, apple butter. There were three and came all neatly lined up. Of course, I went for the Chocolate: cocoa brioche, chocolate marquise, cashew, blood orange coulis.
While visually my dessert was more stunning than his donuts, I actually think he won. My chocolate dessert was so rich, I couldn’t even finish it. And I don’t particularly remember tasting the blood orange. His donuts, on the other hand, were light, fluffy and delicious.

All in all, we had an amazing anniversary dinner. I highly recommend Auberge du Pommier for any special occasion. The ambiance is very romantic but in a non-annoying way. The venue is gorgeous, the food is amazing and the service is wonderful. What more can you ask for?


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