BB's is a modern Filipino restaurant in Parkdale that serves a creative dinner menu Thursday to Saturday nights, plus brunch from Friday to Sunday with fun and inspired cocktails.
Owner Justin Bella, who was the General Manager of Lamesa, was keen on creating a space built on hospitality that's meant to feel welcoming. BB's is short for Bahay ni Bella (Bella's house) after all.
"A large component of Filipino culture is hospitality. A large takeaway from both my lola and my mom was to always be a gracious host. So, everything from the esthetics with the pastels to the Korean flatware and Japanese stoneware – all things nostalgic to me – I associate with going to my lola's house," said Bella.
Taking over the Brock Ave. space that once housed Electric Mud BBQ, BB's new digs feature 28 seats in its quaint and cozy dining room. Besides banquette seating and a couple intimate tables for two, there is stool seating flushed against a lowered omakase-style bar. Outside, there's an enclosed 60-seat heated patio that's open when the weather permits.
Parked on the north end, under a glowing Kusina Filipina neon sign, is the kitchen pass where chef Robbie Hojilla (formerly of Lake Inez, Harbord Room, Hudson Kitchen, and other notable Toronto kitchens) and his team churn out Filipino-inspired dishes.
Here, traditional Filipino flavours are infused into balanced dishes that Hojilla prepares using his training in French and Italian cuisine. The result is finessed plates that pop with flavour – no longer leaning only on distinctly sweet or tart – and loaded with plenty of interesting textures.
"I want BB's to be known as a really great restaurant that has a good vibe to it, and to expose people to Filipino food without them knowing it," Bella says of the restaurant's twists on Filipino cuisine.
"We're doing great with brunch, but my desire with the dinner program was to allow Robbie to do his thing. I really admire his creativity. Robbie's one of the pioneers of the Filipino pop-ups, and that's something we look up to because it's hard to be the first one to do anything."
A possible signature, the Ahi Tuna Kinilaw ($18) which marinates the pristine fish in coconut cream, cane vinegar, ginger, calamansi juice. The refreshing appetizer is finished with shallots, bell pepper, avocado and chilli, then served with homemade cassava chips.
A nod to his time cooking in French kitchens, the Chicken Liver Mousse ($12) tops the silky-smooth pate with a pineapple-calamansi gelee, pineapple, chicken skin crackling and toasted shokupan (Japanese milk bread).
It's the classic done well but also freshened up with a distinctly Filipino touch that's mildly sweet and delightful.
Ginataan Croquettas ($11/3 pieces) features breaded then fried croquettes made from a root vegetable (cauliflower, squash, and sweet potato) and coconut bechamel. The bite-sized finger foods can be made vegetarian if it's not topped with the bagoong (fermented fish-based paste) aioli.
Hojilla's Vegetable Pancit ($19) is chocked full of vegetables – namely cabbage, carrot, mushrooms, bok choy – that's stir-fried with tofu, onions, garlic, and ginger and tossed in a sweet soy sauce with rice noodles. The flavourful and comfort-driven dish is served with chilli oil for those who are looking for an extra bit of kick.
Picanha Steak ltum ($26) is special. Perfectly cooked picanha steak is served with addictive triple-cooked potatoes, sarsa berde, and a crazy good tiyula itum-inspired blackened coconut jus.
The latter is a braised beef stew that's made with charred coconut meat. Hojilla replicates the flavours in the inky jus making a reduction from beef stock flavoured with burnt coconut, onion, garlic turmeric, and lemongrass.
This is the plate that will make you wonder if there's a way to lick a plate cleaner than actually licking the plate.
To complement Hojilla's contemporary cuisine, BB's offers a short list of low-intervention wines (curated by Grape Witches' Lorein Codiamat), beers, and original crafted cocktails a la bar manager Jeremy Navasca, previously of El Rey Mezcal Bar, The Broadview Hotel, and Baro.
Navasca stocks the cocktail list with lighter shandys and mimosa-type cocktails spiked with calamansi at brunch but gets fun and creative during the evening cocktail hours. Food-friendly and quaffable, the drinks incorporate both familiar Filipino flavours but also unexpected ones like atchuete (annatto) seeds that has been infused into tequila.
The Pink Matter ($16), is Navasca's take on a Korean milk soda. A crowd favourite that's lactose-free due to the use of oat milk, the sweet cocktail does use gumamela (hibiscus) infused rum, with calamansi cordial and ginger beer.
Front & Centre ($16) is a pisco-based cocktail that features lulo (Central American citrus) with St. Germain, orgeat and celery bitters.
Can't choose? Leave it to the bartender ($18) or go with a classic that ranges from a Cosmopolitan ($15) to the Last Word ($15).
BB's is located on Brock Ave. just north of Queen St. W.