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Best of Toronto

The Best Filipino Restaurants in Toronto

Posted by Guest Contributor / November 1, 2013

Filipino Restaurants TorontoThe 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.

See also: 9 places to get Filipino-style lechon in Toronto

Writing by Len Cervantes

Lamesa Filipino Kitchen

Lamesa Filipino Kitchen

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 »

Sampaguita Village Restaurant

Sampaguita Village Restaurant

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 »

Max's Restaurant

Max's Restaurant

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 »

Tocino Boys

Tocino Boys

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 »

Remely's

Remely's

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 »

Casa Manila

Casa Manila

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 »

Co-China Manila

Co-China Manila

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

Jollytops

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 »

Ritz Restaurant

Ritz Restaurant

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 by Tita Flips at Market 707

Kanto by Tita Flips at Market 707

'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

Barrio Fiesta

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 »

Mayette's

Mayette's

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 »

Discussion

18 Comments

K_Bas / November 1, 2013 at 02:24 pm
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I stumbled upon Lamesa a few weeks ago and was super impressed! Modern, delicious, in a gorgeous space, and amazing service. Definitely one to check out: http://lamesafilipinokitchen.com/
KT / November 1, 2013 at 03:04 pm
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Lamesa is good, but a little on the expensive side. Maybe more for special occasion. I prefer Sampaguita, service is quick and food is delicious. It's such a hidden gem!
JR / November 1, 2013 at 05:42 pm
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This is the best "Best of" article I've read. The Filipino inflected humour packed into each review blurb had me cracking-up!

Nicely done, Mr. Cervantes. I'd trust your educated, heat-lamp palette any day.
art / November 2, 2013 at 12:40 pm
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HOW DOES JESSE JR NOT MAKE THIS LIST AND REMELYS DOES?? REMELYS IS THE WORST PLACE EVER! TERRIBLE SERVICE AND PORTIONS! THIS LIST MUST BE FAKE!
Anthony Iamarino / November 15, 2013 at 12:39 pm
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I am new to Toronto and have been craving to have some delicious Philipino food. My Philipino colleague directed me to a Philipino restaurant downtown Toronto. I was so exceited and took out my Philipino Girl friend, unfortunately the food there was not baked properly and I complained. The Chef was summoned and he told me that the oven just broke down and it was runnng on low heat, he did not know what to do, the manager came and offered to refund the amount but I told them they should get it fixed otherwise they will loose business and their hard earned name and reputation. They were trying to call the oven's brand company technicians and they did not answer their call. I had a problem in my apartment my laundry machine broke and I called a technician from SOS Appliance Repairs they were fast and got it done at a very cheap price fortunately I had their business card in my wallet and I handed it over to the Manager. After half an hour as I was walked out of the restaurant I saw the guy, from SOS Appliance walking into the restaurant. Later in the evening I got a call form the restaurant manager who told me without my advice on contacting SOS Appliance Repair they would have ended up closing their business temporarily till they got it fixed and he also thanked me a lot. I would recommend SOS Appliance repair http://www.sosappliancerepair.com/ and they also have a blog http://sosappilance-repair-sevices.blogspot.ca/ and they are pretty good, experienced and really reasonably priced, some Christmas deals are no going on. https://www.facebook.com/pages/SOS-Appliance-Repairs-Inc/192926527510026
lexi / November 22, 2013 at 02:36 pm
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Wow, I sure am glad I now know where to get my stove fixed, thanks to a roundup of Filipino restaurants!?!?!? WTF kind of spam bot Is this????
Robert / December 10, 2013 at 08:53 pm
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Not sure why Jessie Jr is not there. They have two restaurants - did someone from that restaurant piss the writer off to prevent them from being included? If you read closely the writer specifically indicated that Max's is not authentic - so why is it in the "best of" list? Also if you've actually gone to the Ritz, it is not good either - and the review is not a review but a listing of what's in the menu. If this was the best of then don't put so many restaurants just to fill in the page. That is not correct. Lamesa is great, it is pricey but you get good food approximating what Ayala Cafe in Makati would offer, for example. Were the list of restaurants here the ones who paid to get their names on the list? I think this is an inaccurate description of the real landscape of restaurants that are out there.
Sam replying to a comment from lexi / December 14, 2013 at 09:07 am
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Hi Lexi,

You are right they are spammers, I would share and alert others about such fake spammers so that no one would ever shop with guys like sosapplaincerepair.com those guys gave me a tough time, they came to fix my appliance and then they not only broke it permenantly but also behaved very rude, careful never allow such guys in your house.
Rose / March 9, 2014 at 01:22 pm
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I am baffled by some of the picks on this list! Remely's? Really??? This place is among the worst places in the GTA, The food is mediocre at best, with sauces that are watery and lacking in flavour. The service us indifferent, whether or not the owners are around.

Mayettes has been around fir years, but the food isn't great either. Heavy handed with the grease and salt. The hours are also hit or miss and the place needs a good cleaning.

Why was Jesse Jr. overlooked? Their food is consistently fresh and authentic. Staff are always very pleasant and responsive. Barrio Fiesta us an institution in the Filipino community, because their food is also authentic, consistently good and well priced.

I agree that La Mesa is a welcome addition to the food scene. They are reinventing the dishes from our culture.

The reviewer clearly expresses his/her personal preferences. However, I would suggest not limiting your foray into Pilipino cuisine to his inadequate list.
Robbie Salcedo / March 12, 2014 at 01:39 pm
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I never get BlogTo's best of. Casa Manila? Really? Remely's? If you guys aren't going to put in the time to do it right, don't do it at all.
zktxo replying to a comment from art / April 27, 2014 at 07:40 pm
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Jesse Jr. is disgusting though....
Brian / April 27, 2014 at 09:30 pm
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Chef George should be added to this list!

http://www.chefgeorgerivera.com/
Mike / April 28, 2014 at 11:56 am
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Chester Chicken on Howard St near sherbourn subway has some great philipino food
gina / April 28, 2014 at 04:24 pm
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Casa Manila???? No...no...no... food is not that good and it's quite pricey. The place is very accident prone too esp. to children, due to many unstable stuff around that keep on collapsing, they might fall on your head while eating.
Anne / April 29, 2014 at 05:03 pm
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Who in the heck wrote this??? Not only is it inaccurate, but I do smell a hint of $$$ in it for him. I can only comment on the places I've tried, but I'm pretty sure much more do not deserve to be called one of the best.

MAX'S - took them 2 hours to get to us our food the first time. 2nd time I "had" to eat there, it took an hour. And the food wasn't even good. Left with high blood pressure and not even a single sincere apology from anyone.

REMELY'S - Ridiculously overpriced because of the low cheap quality of the food. I don't know what happened, but they have gone way downhill compared to their first years. And more importantly, NEVER order trays on holidays. Your guests will starve to death.

CASA MANILA - Too overpriced and pretentious. Has some good dishes I give them that, but nothing incredible. Service has improved much though.

CO-CHINA - Owned by a Chinese man who is his own chef. Nothing against that, but the food here is just bad and is the same day after day after day. Nothing ever new. He needs to learn to cook other dishes.

JOLLYTOPS - Really? no, really?? It's a joke, right?

This list needs to be narrowed down to three really. Please be careful when writing these things because most of the things on this list should not be representing Filipino cooking and taste.

cheap jewelry like claire's / May 13, 2014 at 09:28 pm
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Pretty! This was a realy wonderful ρost. MÉ‘ny thanks for supplying this information.
Kumander Pusa / July 11, 2014 at 12:24 pm
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Max's is not even a shadow what I knew of Max's in Manila.
Service is slow, two hours waiting for orders, restaurant late in opening for noon hour, two servers, tables unclean and the worst insult are the prices and its mandatory gratuity charge of 15%.

I do not recommend Max's as it has maxed out my patience.
th-shop.Ru / September 21, 2014 at 03:28 am
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I am actually thankful to the owner off this web page
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