One evening in January had me dashing towards Lamesa. And it was with the best of intentions that I bring my long-time buddy here who, unlike myself, was familiar with the Filipino cuisine and can actually tell you what a balut is.
This restaurant has been on my bucket list for a while since I began hearing one great review after another from my friends. One of them ushered something along the lines of "bring your carnivore friends". And surely I did! If it's two words that I can sum up my dinner here it's chicken and pork. Chicken and pork. Sorry, animal lovers.
My decision to try a Filipino restaurant came from my lack of experience with this cuisine, which only goes so far as to homemade mom-and-pop cooking almost a decade ago. For someone who's on a mission to try every type food of every culture possible, it's about time that I familiarize myself with more than just longanisas!
Lamesa means "table" in Tagalog and here you'll find the tables all made from the same tree. But what really caught my eye is the massive pastel mural sprawled against the wall by local artists Christine Mangosing and Ilona Fiddy, inspired by Filipino cigarette wrappers from the '50s and '60s.
I applaud the owners Leslie Sabilano and Chef Rudy Boquila, who have done a splendid job with the menu. Here you'll find a fusion of Filipino with Spanish, Mexican, and American influences, and quirky names like Lolo Cool J ("lolo" is "grandpa" in Tagalog) and Pinoy Banh Mi.
In addition to daily specials, there's a snack menu for those keen on grabbing small bites in between and a brunch for the weekenders. You can also feast yourself on a 5-course prix fixe meal for $40, including two per chef's choice.
We each had a pint of Muskoka Craft to start and proceeded to Fresh Lumpia as our appetizer, which are ground pork and crab spring rolls as crisp as parchment paper. I'm usually not fond of spring rolls (probably because I've come across too many lackluster ones to count), but these are simply amazing and the only spring rolls I would ever go back for.
The Chicken Adobo is a confit chicken with an adobo gastrique, garlic barley risotto, beets, and a balut pate. I'm still in awe of how wonderful this dish is. You get the sweetness from the gastrique reduction combined with the best of the beets world: crispy beets, pickled beets, and roasted yellow beets. Also, the balut pate is divine and considered a delicacy in the Philippines.
The Lechon Kawali is one of the two large sharing plates on the menu. Without thinking twice, we opted for the larger portion for $30. It has deep fried pork belly served with delicate spring roll wrappers, lettuce, atchara (a famous pickle in the Philippines) and homemade dipping sauces.
Finally, the most grand of all is the Roasted Chicken Embotido, a whole roasted chicken stuffed with longanisa and boiled eggs served with three homemade dipping sauces. I think longanisas speak to my heart because the moment I saw that on the menu, I knew I had to get it. And boy, was I blown away! The chicken was so juicy, the sauces nearly spilled over the wooden board as it arrived at our table. I was happy enough taking some leftovers home because it tasted just as delicious the next day.
The staff is extremely down to earth, and I have yet to find better service that will top Claire's. She was incredibly attentive and just a joy to have a conversation with. If I had to rate this restaurant I'd give it a 9/10. This is the place where I'd bring all my carnivore friends.
Lamesa Filipino Kitchen is open Tuesdays through Sundays, now offering lunch on the weekends in addition to dinner.
669 Queen Street West