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Casa Manila

Posted by Beverly Cheng / Reviewed on October 18, 2009 / review policy

Casa manilaCasa Manila, on a weekend, is more like a church after party than a restaurant. The particular Sunday that we head north of the city to pay a visit, we happen to crash a private Baptism bash for eighty. We tiptoe past the glistening suckling pig, the platters of desserts and swerve between the grannies and rosy-cheeked children lined up for their private buffet, to the back of the restaurant, where those who aren't on the list are cast away.

Casa manila torontoLocated in a strip mall surrounded by office towers, the space is large, clean and typical of any Asian restaurant. Their dizzying menu may be a bit hard to navigate for first timers, but owner Lilian Velasco-Co has a knack for anticipating what customers will enjoy at first glance. She patiently goes through a range of possibilities before we narrow it down. A menu splashed with colourful images also come in handy.

Bicol Express ($8.99) shows just how cross-cultural Filipino cuisine really is. A dynamite mix of bitter melon, aubergine, bell peppers, okra in a buttery coconut milk, laced with shrimp paste and pierced with a sharp chili heat, is a harmonious blend of flavours.

Casa manila

Casa manilaChicken Adobo ($9.99, pictured in lead photo above), possibly the most well-known dish hailing from the Philippines is easily adaptable to Western taste buds. Like chicken with a thick, salty gravy, Casa Manila adapts to Western tastes by using skinless, boneless chicken breast and being shy on the vinegar.

Philippine's national pride, Milkfish ($10.99), is seared to a golden brown, doused in a light soy sauce, sprinkled with salt and finished with a twist of lemon. The texture of the fish may not be for everyone as it is on the drier side and is rather firm. It's a fish dish that I can easily see my mother, or grandmother make and serve with love. Simple, slightly bland and completely de-boned (so that the young ones don't choke), this is evocative of typical Asian homestyle cooking.

Casa manilaIt would truly be a travesty to leave Casa Manila before trying their heavenly Halo Halo ($5.50). A mountain of shaved ice topped with a rainbow of beans, a river of condensed milk, caramelized plantain, sweet taro paste, yams, coconut jellies, lime jello, taro ice cream and flecks of sugary pseudo Frosted Flakes, this vibrant dessert instantly etches a smile across my face.

Casa manila toronto

The friendly staff, children playing hide-and-go-seek and rustic home cooking, all make me feel comfortably at ease and very much at home in Casa Manila.

Casa manila

Photos by Francis Jonas Yap



Mike / October 19, 2009 at 10:02 am
Great photos. However, I feel like I learned nothing at all about the actual food being served.

Zooey replying to a comment from Mike / October 19, 2009 at 10:25 am
What more do you want, Mike? The OP described each dish in detail and how it tasted. Come on.
Dee / October 19, 2009 at 10:42 am
Yay! A Filipino Restaurant! You guys should do more Filipino restaurants. I'm a Filipino myself and when friends ask me where they should go to get good Filipino food, I don't know where to take them other than my house for Mama's cooking.

Will definitely try this out. =)
sarah replying to a comment from Dee / October 19, 2009 at 12:37 pm
i agree with you Dee! I never can take any of my friends out to a fine filipino restaurant... so i'll try this one out too! =D
Kristen / October 19, 2009 at 10:01 pm
I live nearby that place, and it's definitely one of the more quality Filipino restaurants in the city :)
Basile / October 20, 2009 at 08:44 am
the reason there are no filipino restaurants is because the food is generally not that good...I backpacked from north luzon all the way south to bohol and never encountered any quality food (from street food to fine dining) except for the more high-end venues in Manila...well, the mangoes were good.
Vince / October 22, 2009 at 09:40 am
I'm not filipino (but have close friends in the community) nor have been to the Philipines (but would love to visit someday) but I've frequented this restaurant and have always found the food fresh and delicious and the service warm and inviting. Great place to eat!
May / October 22, 2009 at 10:33 am
The place is amazing!

Great food and love the ambiance...and to complement it all, the price was also very reasonable.
Whether you're looking for Filipino food or feeling like trying something new…Casa Manilla is the place to GO!!!
What are you waiting for?
I beg to differ replying to a comment from Basile / October 22, 2009 at 02:35 pm
Basile, I travelled a simmilar route as you did in the Philippines and also live a year in Southern Luzon and found the food, from high end restaurants to street side vendors, to be delicious. Granted, filipino food isn't as glamourous or spice-filled as other southeast asian cuisine but it's simplicity and home-style nature makes me long for it like home.

But I do agree, the mangoes are good.
Vanessa / October 23, 2009 at 09:52 am
Was it really taro they used? As a filipina, I have to say our purple ice cream is made from purple yams (we call 'ube'). And from what I've been looking up online, ube and taro are not the same.
Michael / November 4, 2009 at 05:23 pm
Based on the favourable reviews here, I visited Casa Manila last weekend. It was a trip well worth it.

Though the interior of the restaurant is unassuming, I can say quite heartily that the food was simply outstanding. I had soup, appetizer, a three course w/ rice lunch plate and finished everything off with the Halo Halo.

Everything, and I do mean EVERYTHING, was fresh, tasty and reasonably priced. Having lived in the Philippines for 3 yrs, I can state without doubt that this is the best filipino meal I've had since returning to Toronto.

If you're looking to try something new or just simply wanting a 'taste of home', then this is the place for you.

5***** out of 5

As to the comment from Basile, ........... well, to write off the complete culinary style of an entire country seems pretty lame. Perhaps you should stick to Hipsterville.

christine replying to a comment from Basile / November 6, 2009 at 08:53 pm
wow. that was offensive.
okleydo / February 1, 2010 at 10:52 pm
I went there last week with a few friends, the owner recommended a few dishes, we followed his advice from appetizer to main course to dessert, every single dish was special, adventurous, and delicious! Price was fair. Service was good. Highly recommended.
H / March 20, 2010 at 06:33 pm
The food here is disgusting. I would never go back. And I am a fan of Thai, Malaysian, Indonesian, Vietnamese, etc. food. I am sure they would have better food in the Philipines.
sheila / June 2, 2010 at 08:23 am
can somebody tell me the location/address of Casa Manila please.. Thanks..
Sue / November 8, 2010 at 12:32 pm
Tried a couple of their dish a year or so ago, and found them too salty, hence i never went back. maybe they've changed. will try again one of these days.
Anonymous Diner / January 23, 2011 at 02:27 am
Service was good but to be honest the food isnt that special.
I am rating the taste 6/10. The food wasn't cold. The ham sauce taste like Mang Tomas sarsa with honey. The palabok turned out to be mashy(MASHED PALABOK-overcook). The barbecue isnt that great.

The food taste like what a regular filipino( with no experience in cooking) would make at home.(in a bad way) Just being honest.

The kare-kare taste good though. And I love the lanterns, the place, and the service. Sorry to say the food didnt make it to that level.

PS: I asked for ice and you gave me 2 little cubes-that wont help eh?

Try Sampaguita Restaurant along Wilson-Bathurst. (No, I dont work at Sampaguita but the food there taste way better than Casa Manila, sorry
Anthonette / January 23, 2011 at 02:32 am
Service was good but to be honest the food isnt that special.
I am rating the taste 4.5/10. The food was cold. The ham sauce taste like Mang Tomas sarsa with honey. The palabok turned out to be mashy(MASHED PALABOK-overcook). The barbecue doesnt taste good.

The food taste like what a regular filipino( with no experience in cooking) would make at home.(in a bad way) Just being honest.

The kare-kare taste good though. And I love the lanterns, the place, and the service. But too bad the food didnt make it to that level.

PS: I asked for ice and you gave me 2 little cubes-that wont help

Try Sampaguita Restaurant along Wilson-Bathurst. (No, I dont work for Sampaguita or anything but the food there taste WAAAAYYYY BETTER than Casa Manila, sorry)
Katrina Annaman / March 2, 2011 at 11:10 pm
Recently I was treated to a very special dinner @ Casa Mila. The owner knew I was a little nervous about the food(being an irish lass and all!) so she asked what type of food appeals to me and recommended several dishes and each was better than the last. So flavourful, fresh and tasty, it's hard to believe it's good for you!
I learned that her birthday is today, so a big shout out to her! I hear she is turning 29 (again!) lol
Anyway, I'll defnitely be back 4 sure!!!
Sarah / September 29, 2011 at 02:18 am
Went for the first time with some family and friends. REALLY good food. I think it was authentic. Will definitely be going back.
Ozzie / February 12, 2012 at 01:41 am
Appetizer as too greasy. Food was descent.
Service was too slow. 2 waitresses and 3 tables.
Dessert was good
Gave them 15%tips, deserved 10% at best
J / March 10, 2012 at 03:03 pm
I've yet to try out this place. Max at Dufferin and WIlson was OK, nothing special and way too overpriced for what you get! Anyway, I will have to agree with Basil, I'm a native filipina and I've lived there, traveled to other provinces and the food is generally not that great.

We don't take advantage of the spices and herbs as in other south east asian countries like thai,viet,korean, japanese etc. Recently went back for a vacation and was again disappointed by the lack of flavour and variety. The vegetables are always over cooked in soups or other dishes. OR over salted. It's always best to make your own filipino food and do your own rendition. Or food made by relatives, which are always more tasty because its made with 'love'.

I find that the food made in north america better which is a shame because in the philippines, the vegetables and fish are always more fresh! Which people don't take advantage of. BUT if you ever go to Bohol, you must try Leopoldo's pancit guisado. I think bohol for the most part was an exception! Best food, best atmosphere and laid back.

J / March 10, 2012 at 03:03 pm
i meant MAX at dufferin and steeles
Gladys / March 13, 2012 at 02:31 am
Omg excellent job whoever planned it.dika mahiyang magsama ng mga foreigner friends mo.kahit sa labas palang excited ka nang pumasok kaagad.we enjoyed the halo halo.thanks guys 100percent dyan n naman kami this year
Ivana replying to a comment from Basile / March 29, 2012 at 03:23 pm
Mike, You just have to go and TASTE it. That's technically how you "learn to taste food" as you say!
kim / April 6, 2012 at 04:28 pm
Since Mila and Rizalde took over the restaurant, they have truly placed Filipino cuisine alongside all the other Asian cuisines out there as something recognizable and delicious. This is something that ALL Filipinos should truly be proud of, as their cuisine has finally gone mainstream.
P.H. / April 18, 2012 at 03:49 pm
Just to let everyone know, Lillian is no longer the owner, Mila and Rizalde Cuachon are.

Love, love, love, Casa Manila! It's the best Filipino food that I have tasted.
Judith A. / July 16, 2012 at 11:17 am
A great looking restaurant, but I'm a bit disapponted with the
food. All the dishes I ordered are too sweet. My advise to the chef is to take it easy on the sugar. Authentic Filipino dishes has very little sugar or none at all.
Katherine replying to a comment from J / December 31, 2012 at 09:09 pm
Wow, what type of restaurants did you go to when you were there? I don't remember every being disappointed with our food. Have you tried Kilawin? Have you tried sisig? How about Pinakbet? I doubt that's bland! I actually went back to luzon and visayas a couple of years ago. I could not stop eating the wonderful foods offered that are cooked in the native palayok, or the tamarind and camias made sinigang (these were in restaurants). The key to Filipino food is not the spices, it is actually letting the ingredients taste like how its supposed to taste. Why would you mask the goodness of free range chicken? Why would anyone cover up the taste of our "baka" when it's so tasty? That's like over spicing a good piece of steak. I think you might want to rethink what it is your talking about. I'm not being defensive I am just explaining what food should taste like. Or you can just over salt everything and drop 700 different kinds of spices in your adobo. LOL
Vlad / April 1, 2013 at 07:24 pm
Over price but food are tremendously good.
Cathy / November 10, 2014 at 07:51 am
My friends and I went last night at Casa manila it's a big big mistakes to come to this Restaurant. We order oxtail soup (bulalo) it taste like water and it's not hot at all. The squids taste like you eating bubble gum very hard to bite. All the food that we order you can't eat at all. We have a filipino restaurant in the Philippines so we know what is fresh and recycle food!! We feel like we're been cheated. I should listen to one of my friend who been here. It's very embarrassing that I recommended this restaurant to my friend last night. We should went to Sampaguita restaurant along Wilson and Bathurst. That's the real filipino food and you won't be embarrassed but the problem is always to many people waiting!!
Mila Nabor Cuachon / December 12, 2014 at 08:49 pm
You must be talking about another restaurant. Casa manila does not offer oxtail bulalo. Too bad your review is not consistent with the most current reviews for casa. Also consider your review as biased and with an intention that is not constructive and is somewhat malicious. If you prefer Sampaguita restaurant, go . To each his own. Casa has a good enough following to not miss your type of patronage. No wonder there is what they call crab mentality for Filipinos who pull down their own people and their successes.
Karen / January 17, 2015 at 06:03 pm
The garlic shrimp/gamas were easily the best dish of the entire meal (sad that we ate the best thing first). The tiny shrimps were incredibly succulent and bouncy in taste. The garlic was SO yummy and delicious as well.

Read the rest of my review at:

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