I love Filipino food. But other than adobo and rice - I don’t cook it. There’s too much chopping and cutting, a lot of frying and the smell of garlic (although I love the taste!)! So when I hear that another Filipino restaurant, newly opened, has again caught the attention of Toronto food reviewers, I am excited at the thought that there’s another table where I can enjoy my native dishes.
It used to be that Filipino eateries were mostly carinderias, like cafeterias, with not much atmosphere. They were quite utilitarian, you went in there to eat, you chose your dishes from several heated trays by pointing to them (hence, turo-turo, the Tagalog word for to point ), you did not linger over a drink or a cup of coffee. With the opening of Platito, I am very pleased that our cuisine has gotten its due respect and has gone mainstream in Toronto.
Two summers ago, my daughter who lives in Stockholm was visiting with her family and discovered Lola’s Kitchen in the internet. Peter and I drove over 30 minutes to get to the tiny restaurant to buy some pancit, lumpiang Shanghai and barbecued pork. The restaurant itself was bright with a glass front and a few tables and chairs. A young woman took our order and her mother prepared the dishes in the open kitchen. We drove home as fast as we could so the dishes would still be warm for our picnic table. The Scandinavians thought that everything was delicious and why couldn’t I cook these at home?
A few months ago, I read an excellent review of a Lamesa on hip Queen Street West. I immediately made a reservation for the Kamayan offering (only on Sunday evenings). Several tables were already taken and there were quite a few adventurous non-Filipinos who seemed to enjoy eating with their hands. A long banana leaf was placed on our table, and two young men took turns spooning small portions of different dishes on our table. Definitely no cutlery provided. Peter thought it was fun. And the food was very tasty.
A week ago, I read of another new place near the U of T. Known as restaurant alley for years, Baldwin Street boasts of a longstanding array of international cuisine found in Bodega, Café La Gaffe, Matahari, Wah Sing, Margarita etc. Now Platito has arrived and we stopped by for brunch. Located In a narrow, yellow Victorian rowhouse, there is a bar near the entrance and some tables, and a dining room on the second floor. As we walked upstairs to our table, there was the sound of laughter. Yes, indeed, a table of around a dozen young men were enjoying their meal and drinks at one end of the long room. The other tables were taken by a few couples and one family of four.
A mural on the two-story wall depicting a cockfighting rooster, a jeepney and a bottle of San Miguel beer brightens up the narrow room.
My order of tapsilog came on a square wooden plate, colourful with two fried eggs over subtly garlicky fried rice, savoury marinated slices of beef, very fresh salad of greens and tomato slices, and some papaya achara. It looked delectable – and it was. Peter had the tamer but no less tasty tortang talong, with San Miguel beer drank straight from the bottle. We ate with a fork and spoon, Filipino style. I understand that you can request Kamayan style, on demand, anytime. One can also order online for takeout.
The young servers were smiling and friendly. They ran nimbly up and down the stairs, No table was empty for more than a few minutes. I looked around and it seemed I was the only Filipino around.
The young chef, Karlo Cunanan, got his culinary smarts from his mother and grandmother while growing up in Scarborough, and later from the kitchen at renowned Momofuku. Flavours are very important to him, so is “plating” – contemporary presentation of the food.
He and his equally young partner/owners Derek Linay, Jonathan Mirasol, and Ruston Tabuncar, are passionate about bringing attention to what they call Filipino soul food – our exotic regional and national cuisine, artfully influenced by the various cultures that have lingered on our shores: Chinese, Spanish, American, Malaysian etc. Traditional dishes abound in the menu as well as fusion for interesting combinations. Non-Filipinos love the ube waffles, topped with crispy fried chicken for brunch or ube ice cream with macapuno for dessert. Now, that’s EXOTIC!
Platitos (Spanish for saucers or small plates) of pulutan (tapas style) are now available all day. From 5 p.m. on, there is a wide choice of heartier offerings for dinner. Among the mains are Bicol Express and Kare-Kare, apparently the most requested by Filipino diners.
I can’t wait to go back!