Lovely Pao is a homey little restaurant specializing in Filipino steamed buns.
Located not far from Yorkdale Mall, this tiny plaza shop is home to unreal siopao (pronounced show-pow): the Filipino version of cha siu baos, often sold by roadside vendors in the Philippines. One of the only places in the city that concentrates nearly exclusively on this underrated Filipino dish, Lovely Pao has come a long way since the idea was first born out of Connie Laoyan's apartment kitchen, when unemployment and a hip replacement led her to spend the last of her savings on ingredients for a last-ditch business.
The store itself is basically a market for Filipino staples like bananas and soy sauces, liver spreads, and tins of Sky Flakes.
In the back, hours are spent rolling and stuffing buns with two types of asado fillings: a chicken or pork, each with half of a hard-boiled egg inside.
Buns are steamed at up to five trays at a time and served in packages of six ($14 for chicken/$12 for pork). Mini versions, which are still larger than your average steamed buns, come in packs of 12 ($18 for chicken, $17 for pork).
They're generous with the meat inside, and the buns come out fluffy and light. If you just want to try one, they're $3 each.
Top it with some of their house-made sauce, a sweet concoction made with some of the boiled down juices from the asado meats.
Traditionally, these buns are also eaten to accompany more filling dishes like lomi noodles (small for $7.90).
This tasty and viscous egg noodle dish is served with boiled eggs, green onions, and crispy pork skins. Mix it all together for optimal flavour.
Also made in house are turon, the popular Filipino plantain spring rolls that are $1.25 each.
Suman sticky rice wrapped in banana leaves are $1 a roll.
And of course, the quintessential shredded ice drink, Halo Halo.
Lovely Pao's version is filling and not over-the-top sweet, with bananas, pinipig (a type of toasted, glutinous rice), sweet potatoes, sugar plum, shredded coconut, and in this case, pistachio ice cream.