Lamesa Filipino Kitchen is the culmination of 20 years in the kitchen for Chef Rudy Boquila. Lamesa is the confluence of cultural influences for himself and co-owner Les Sabilano. Lamesa is the reimagined, rebranded and rejuvenated home of Filipino flavours on Queen West.
When Boquila and Sabilano set out to launch Lamesa a year and a half ago, they thought back to the flavours of their childhood. Lamesa was as much an ode to Filipino cuisine as it was a representation of the diverse ethnic influences that can be found throughout the 7,000-plus islands of their home country. Chinese, Spanish, American, Malay – a pinch here and a dollop there, the food at Lamesa is unapologetically untraditional and undeniably interesting.
Their bar program is well balanced. Cocktails like the Lolo Cool J made with Maker’s Mark Bourbon, pineapple and cinnamon syrup, lemon juice, ginger ale and a perfectly candied pineapple had me hankering for a beach and some bountiful sunshine. The Shand Miguel simply blended San Miguel beer and fresh calamansi juice (a tart Filipino citrus fruit) and could come at me by the pitcher-full. Where’s my summer at?
The unique menu at Lamesa starts with their Fil-Can brunch (Saturdays and Sundays from 11am to 3pm). Topping fluffy American-style corn and coconut pancakes with Sarsi (Filipino root beer) braised pork and a jackfruit syrup, both sweet and savoury breakfast lovers will laud this dish. Personally though I’d swap the rich coconut cream on top for some of their house-made hot sauce.
Despite my distaste for sweets so early in the morning, I was even impressed with their French toast turon, a sweet egg dipped bread with plantain and jackfruit wrapped in spring roll. The coconut whip was more appropriate in this instance.
The house special crispy pata, a delectable deep fried pork trotter, was served with the traditional spicy soy and vinegar dipping sauce, as well as a sriracha-like hot sauce and sweet and savoury soy and sugar sauce. All were exceptional and enhanced by a pickled bite of watermelon radish.
If you have a Filipino friend and they haven’t introduced you to lumpia then you’ve got grounds to complain. Pork spring rolls and housemande banana ketchup… it’s way better than it might sound!
Drawing back on the Chinese influence, arroz caldo is like the Pinoy congee of the Philippines; ideal comfort food for when the city experiences 10-degree temperature swings and starts shitting snow on us in mid-March. It’s topped with boiled egg, chicken, crispy kale, fried garlic and orgasmic chicharon cracklings.
Lamesa’s bicol express fries are like the poutine of Southeast Asia, melding pork, coconut milk, chilies and bagoong (fermented shrimp paste) with hand cut fries. It’s a concoction that I could keep coming back for.
Finally, the dish of the night – one that I’d recommend to every fried chicken fanatic – fried chicken adobo. While it might temper the traditionalist, the pieces are brined in adobo (soy, vinegar, garlic, chilies, peppercorn, bay leaf), fried to an exceptional texture, and served with a thickened adobo gastrique. All I can say is more, more, more, please!
Though Lamesa may not be putting Filipino food on the map from a conventional standpoint, they make a concerted effort to introduce approachable flavours and interesting amalgamations of traditional dishes to Toronto diners. One might still leave wondering what traditional Filipino food is, anyways. And if you ask Boquila and Sabilano, there may not be a right answer.
Have you checked out Lamesa Filipino Kitchen yet? Let us know in the comments below or tweet us @ViewTheVibe.