The Best Filipino Restaurants in Toronto
The best Filipino restaurants have become a more diverse bunch over the last few years. Up until recently, Filipino options in Toronto were either a trek to get to or not worth visiting unless you like heat lamps and steam trays. But thanks to events like the annual Kultura Festival Street Eats Competition at Wychwood Barns and occasional pop-ups like Voodoo Child's Philippine Spirited Brunch, not to mention a slew of new establishments intent on serving in something other than a styrofoam container, Toronto now has no shortage of Filipino culinary experiences that both please the palate and elevate the humble cuisine. Yes, mga kaibigan (my friends) Filipino cuisine has finally arrived - and she's celebrating her debut in style.
Here are the best Filipino Restaurants in Toronto.
Writing by Len Cervantes
Since opening at Queen and Bathurst in the spring of 2012, Lamesa has ushered in a new appreciation for what has to be the best culinary underdog cuisine story in recent memory. Lamesa remixes comfort classics that will either bring you back or make you fall in love for the first time. Their Caldereta (beef stew) uses short rib, the Kare-Kare (veggie and oxtail satay) uses lamb, and the Fried Bangus (pan fried fish) is served it up in a taco while the Crispy Pata (a deep friend pork hock) goes down smooth with an ice cold San Miguel beer. More »
Nutritional experts recommend that a serving size of rice be no bigger than a deck of cards. If that is the case, then Sampaguita Village is serving you the entire board game aisle at Toys R Us in one meal. Thankfully, the quality is good too. These guys don't stray too far from the blueprint - usual suspects like Lechon Kawali (pan-fried pork) and Bistek (beef steak in gravy and onions) are served up on heaping hills of piping-hot white rice. For some extra zing - and protection from the 'aswang' (a monster from Filipino folklore) - order the garlic rice and then kiss your significant other. More »
If you've been to Manila, you know that Max's is sort of like Swiss Chalet. "I'm hungry and want someone to serve me and only want to spend $17.99." The Toronto location of Max's is a franchise and not quite up to its native counterparts. I'm not saying the food is bad here, but that if what they're selling is nostalgia, it'd better be authentic. So if you're going to order one thing at Max's of Canada's Wonderland - make it the Fried Chicken. This recipe has existed since the Americans made a mess of the Philippine Islands and it's one of the only good things they left behind! More »
So it's a Saturday night and you're staggering along Queen West looking for some food to stuff down your Pabst-soaked gullets. Focus your eyes down the street toward the white sign that says Tocino Boys. Step inside, follow the scent of frying pork and order some "Tocino." This is the word for 'bacon' in Spanish but the Filipino permutation means you coat it with enough sugar to send you to the dentist the next day. These guys are serving sweet bacon on everything - pan de sal (filipino sweet bread), bao (steamed bun) and even on itself. The "Supreme Supreme" is uncensored bacon-on-bacon action. Top it off with Longaniza (sweet chorizo) on a stick. More »
There's lots of selection! Everything is good at Remely's and the usual classics such as Adobo, Menudo (Pork Stew) and Beef Caldereta are on the menu. Remely cooks it just like your Filipino buddy's mother does and the upside is she doesn't secretly see you as a bad influence. So while you're here, why not try something off the beaten path? If regular 'chicharon' is deep fried pork skin, then 'Chicharong Bituka' is deep fried pork intestine. Don't run away - this is a street food staple in the Philippines and it goes awesome with beer! Good, huh? Don't forget the "Turon," a deep-fried plantain spring roll coated with caramelized sugar. More »
You can't go wrong with both the quality and the quantity here. The broad menu is complete with comfort classics but they also do soups, which is rare for Filipino restaurants in Toronto (because soup doesn't keep well under a heat lamp!). Try the Beef Bulalo (marrow) Soup, Arroz Caldo (it's like a rice congee but with ginger and chicken) or the Sinigang, which is a tart-sour tamarind soup that will leave you making ugly faces with each wonderful spoonful. If you're rolling with a big crew, Casa Manila is the best place to park the convoy of mini-vans. It's the biggest establishment and the theme nights and group dining packages are good fun. More »
If this is pronounced "Co-CHEENA-Manila," then try not to confuse it with either Cucina Restaurant or Cusina Lounge, two other GTA Filipino Food establishments also non-creatively naming themselves after the Filipino word for kitchen. In a non-ironic double play on words, Co-China Manila also offers Chinese dishes, which when you think about how many Chinese there actually are and have been in Manila throughout history, totally makes sense that you can order Cantonese Chow Mein with your Filipino dishes. No real surprises here but take note if you're throwing a party - Co-China does the Filipino party food genre particularly well. Pork BBQ skewers, Lumpia Shanghai ("those tiny little egg rolls") and Pancit Bihon. More »
Jollytops is probably a homage to "Jollibee" - the popular Filipino burger empire that will be opening up a franchise in Toronto come 2015, but the name is where the similarities end. Jollytops is another heat lamp/steam table place but if you make strategic choices, you won't be disappointed. One tip is order a dish that has vinegar as an ingredient like the Beef Tapa (a sour-tasting bulogi beef), Pork Adobo (the national dish!) or Dinuguan (pork blood stew). It won't have gone bad even if its been sitting there for hours and whatever you take home will taste even better two days later! More »
Only about a third of the Ritz menu is Filipino dishes, so if you've got a couple of unadventurous eaters with you, they can order a burger or some chicken fingers. You, however, should order the Kare-Kare (the oxtail satay), the Pork Ribs Adobo (a different take on the classic with a nice gravy on top) or if you really want to turn it up a notch - order the Pork Binagoongan (say that three times fast). It's fatty pork sauteed in a pinkish fermented shrimp paste and you'll want a heaping mountain of steaming white rice to cut the saltiness and soak up the grease. More »
'Kanto' literally means 'corner' in Filipino - a fitting name for Tita Flips spot in a converted shipping container at the corner of Bathurst and Dundas. Go-to dishes include the Lechon Kawali and the Pancit Palabok (thick noodles topped with sauce, egg, crispy pork bits and other awesome stuff). There's also real innovation happening here. Sisig is amazing on its own - various pig parts chopped into tiny pieces and served sizzling with chilis and citrus - but Tita Flips adds lechon slices and garlic lemon aioli and then serves it on top of french fries to make a totally unique and unforgettable Filipino-Canadian poutine! More »
Barrio Fiesta gives you a bursting styrofoam takeout container with not one, but two items and rice for the price of a Big Mac Meal. Styrofoam containers are the worst - because the various sauces mix together when you inevitably tip it while carrying it, resulting in a brown-orange melange in which you can't tell what is what anymore. That's ok because a lot of Filipino food from these types of places start out as brown-orange melanges anyway, and you won't be able to tell the difference once you're eating it over rice. Order the usual heat lamp choices (the Beef Caldereta, the Pork Menudo) and you should be good and full. More »
Every time I've eaten at Mayette's, I've been fortunate to be served the meal by the chef herself. Mayette has been consistently excellent since 1987. All the usuals are done well, but for a special treat, try ordering from the 'Inihaw' menu. If you didn't know, 'Ihaw' means 'to grill' or to 'roast on coals' and you're not doing that in your own kitchen. The usual grilled Pork BBQ is on the menu, but so are grilled shrimp, squid, tilapia and my favourite, the grilled Bangus (Milk Fish). Any Filipino grill food immediately reminds me of summertime picnics trying to scam some free BBQ by pretending to be a distant cousin! No need to pretend here, Mayette will make you feel like part of the family. More »