I finally made the time to eat at Lamesa Filipino Kitchen! (“Lamesa” = Tagalog from Spanish “la mesa”, meaning “table” or “the table”) I visited the restaurant last night at 5:30pm, close to their opening time. The restaurant is located on Queen Street West and Bathurst (669 Queen Street West), and in my opinion, a nice post-dinner walking distance from the subway at Osgoode station.
Lamesa promotes a more contemporary approach to traditional or homestyle Filipino dishes. It’s refreshing to see new twists applied to food I’ve been familiar with since childhood. I also appreciate what this restaurant does since while Filipinos make up one of the largest minority groups in Toronto, I haven’t really encountered many people familiar with Filipino food in the same way they may be familiar with other types of ethnic cuisine. There also aren’t that many Filipino restaurants around in general in this area.
Have a gander at their menu options here. Their best-value option would have to be the prix-fixe meal: five courses for $30. This includes one appetizer, one main, one dessert, and two tiny tasting courses of off-menu items including the chef’s amuse and a pre-dessert.
00. Signature Cocktail:
Not part of the prix-fixe, but I started my evening with a cocktail concoction of imported beer from the Philippines combined with calamansi (a popular citrus fruit indigenous in the Philippines). I’m not all that big into beer, but San Miguel is fairly light and I love calamansi, so this was a great drink for me. :)
01. The Chef’s Amuse:
My first tasting course was a vegetable lumpia (egg roll) with vinegar. The vegetables were your usual suspects of cabbage, carrots, mushroom, etc. Very simple and enjoyable. I was so hungry and this course is so tiny, so I just felt like this dish was a tease! :P
02. Pulutan (Appetizer):
Halo Halo Sisig
WINNER. Gosh, this is not exactly the healthiest of options, but it was so delicious! This was also starred on the menu as a favourite. It was marinated really well and not particularly spicy. You squeeze the calamansi onto the dish and mix everything together, then eat with rice. “Halo halo” literally means to “mix mix”.
As someone born in the Philippines and of Filipina descent, it is bizarrely gleeful for me to experience someone of another background say Tagalog words and explain Filipino food to me – and I don’t mean that in any kind of patronizing way. My server was very polite and attentive, and I’m glad she took the time to talk about the food.
03. Ulam (Main):
Steak Frites Estofado
The steak was perfect for me. :D Like the pulutan I ordered earlier, this is expected to be eaten with rice. Coupled with the plantain fries on the side, this dish made for an interesting combination of tastes. The fries were a little too heavily littered with salt for me, but I really liked them anyway. I always associate plantains with banana-cue so that made me kind of miss it, haha. The dip was fine, not particularly remarkable or bad.
Word to the wise, while I really enjoyed the pulutan and ulam I ordered, I don’t think I recommend getting both for the same meal simply because they’re both such heavy dishes – I felt like I really needed vegetables to counteract the artery-clogging sensations!
Jackfruit is pretty much the embodiment of amazingness in fruit form, and that’s all you really need to know.
But if you must know more, this pre-dessert was a cinnamon, apple-jackfruit combination of fruit and sauce on top of a deep fried wafer. It was my first time encountering some version of toron (usually a deep fried dessert roll) that didn’t mainly have banana, and I enjoyed this a lot. This tiny portion size is perfect though – I don’t know if I’d be able to finish anything much bigger because it would be too sweet!
05. Matamis (Dessert):
Maaaybe I should have gone with the other dessert option. Probably my biggest issue about this place is that there are only two dessert options, and one of the first reviews I happened to stumble on and skim didn’t really say great things about the Ovaltine Cheesecake. Not to say the Carnation Brûlée was terrible, but I think the taste got a little boring for the portion size that was served… and I actually like evaporated milk! I finished about half of it, though partially due to also being super stuffed from all the food that came beforehand.
My server mentioned that the menu may change on certain nights, so a different variety of nouveau takes on Filipino dishes could be explored. Definite kudos to the creativity of the cooking staff. Lamesa is open only for dinner on weekdays, but I’m really curious to see what their Filipino-Canadian brunch on the weekends are like. Halo halo stuffed crepes, I’m looking at you! :D
Also, if you haven’t already, please consider donating to the ongoing Typhoon Haiyan relief efforts in the Philippines (Canadian Red Cross). The Canadian government has pledged to match donations.
Salamat po and mabuhay!