Toronto is home to an impressive array of international cuisine and fine-dining restaurants, but nowhere do the two come together so irresistibly as at Lamesa, nestled unassumingly in the eclectic neighbourhood of Queen West. It’s an intimate setting, serving up sophisticated Filipino dishes you won’t want to miss. It’s one of the top restaurants in Toronto to spend an evening on a date or with friends.
The minute you step inside, a friendly face wearing a baseball cap makes you feel right at home, as if you were arriving at a friend’s for a home-cooked meal. Lamesa’s eclectic decor is a perfect reflection of the food you’ll be eating, inspired by a patchwork of contrasting cultures from around the world (think Chinese, Spanish, American, and Native Malay).
Take a seat in one of the dramatic, black Louis XIV chairs behind the bar. Sit near the back for a candid glimpse into the kitchen through saloon-style doors painted turquoise and stamped with pink palm trees. Have a look around you, and you’ll notice the restaurant’s stamp of authenticity in every detail. Though the place is relatively new, it’s already counted among the top restaurants in Toronto, particularly among those who know an excellent chef’s tasting menu when they see one.
You’ll want to come with an appetite, as the chef’s tasting menu is a generous 11-course affair. If you don’t know much about the culinary culture of the Philippines, this is the best option for a delicious crash course in the diversity of Filipino cuisine.
The amuse bouche portion of the menu includes moreish creations like a rich buttery brioche with tamarind, ricotta cheese, and anchovies. Some of the best dishes are the most unexpected, like flavourful house-made kimchi, pickled beet, and crunchy pork belly wrapped in a refreshing perilla leaf—something quite unlike anything you’ve tried before. Ask for the chef’s recommendation on drinks, too. If you want to go authentic, the sweet, citrusy Filipino Shandy is a must.
Before you go, take a minute or two to check out the bathrooms. In one, the walls feature famous Filipino faces (and you’ll definitely recognize at least a couple); in the other, newspaper clippings from a Filipino publication educate you on the “steps to a happier bum.”
This new fusion of homegrown Filipino flavour and sophisticated chef’s tasting plates makes Lamesa a dining experience unlike any other you’ll find in the city. The colourful, welcoming atmosphere makes it the perfect spot for a special night out or a casual catch-up with friends.