Unbelievably busy is how I would describe LaMesa. It’s obviously a favourite restaurant for many diners. Originally located in Dee Why LaMesa made the move to haymarket about 12 months ago and obviously hasn’t looked back since.
The authenticity of this Philippine restaurant is apparent immediately in the decor. It’s a mix of colonial style furnishings, wicker chairs and light shades with an eclectic I love the orange wall decorated in woven hats and the wicker light shades.
The menu is like nothing I have sampled previously. The only dish I recognized was the Oxtail Kare-Kare. Regular readers will remember my marketing guru and co-contributor Alesah gave me this recipe which I shared on Gourmet Getaways.
We started with two native Filipino drinks. Hubby chose the Buko Juice which is a sweet drink made with young coconut. Lovely and refreshing with generous scoops of soft fleshy coconut .
I chose the calamansi juice which is a traditional Citrus fruit juice. The flavour was of a variety of juices lemony, but not overly sweet.
With so many delicious dishes available we left the selection of meals to our host Raquel. The first dish to arrive was the Oxtail Kare-Kare, this is one of two house specialties.
Oxtail Kare Kare was so creamy, thick and peanuty. The meat was just falling off the bone. It’s such a delicious comfort food and perfect for the cooler weather. I like that this dish also features, soft eggplant, snake beans and pumpkin. These vegetables added more flavour and thickness to the dish. The Kare-kare is also served with a Philippine shrimp paste.
Next we were treated to a feast for the eyes and mouth. The Seafood Paella was an absolute revelation! Such a bounty of seafood; prawn, calamari, blue swimmer crab, mussels and fish. I was surprised to see a Paella on the menu so I questioned Raquel, asking if this was a traditional Filipino dish. Raquel reminded me that the Spanish had a major influence on Filipino culture and cuisine. She told me “The Spanish had 300 years of colonisation in the Philippines, and the influence is very strong in the kitchen.”
The Paella was a little different to others I have tried. The fragrant rice had been cooked with coconut milk giving the dish a delicious creamy coconut flavour. Instead of Saffron a Filipino spice was used to give the yellow colour and a distinct flavour. The Paella was truly a fusion of Spanish technique and Filipino flavours. The generous variety of seafood making the dish truly spectacular.
Can there ever be too much pork crackling??
Of course not, too much crackling is never enough. This is the second house specialty, the Crispy Pata.
Platter after platter of the Pata paraded out of the kitchen. I was over joyed when this little piggy was placed on our table. The Pata is a tender leg of pork which has been deep fried. The pork skin is crackled to perfect and the meat remains moist and sweet. The dish is served with a dipping sauce which was intensely vinegar and has a hint of chilli. The flavour match was perfect as the vinegar cut through the pork fat beautifully.
You will notice that all the dishes served were incredibly generous in size. When the Oxtail Kare-kare arrived at the table I said to Mr GG, “Oh my, this dish would be enough to feed our whole family!” He agreed, and looking around the restaurant we were surprised to find that every dish was a family sized serve.
I wished we had of bought the children, they would have loved all the meals, and there was certainly enough food.
I had another look at the menu and noticed a section entitled “not for the fainthearted”. Here we found some very traditional Filipino dishes. Heading this selection was a dish called Dinuguan. This dish consisted of a pork neck with pork blood jelly cooked in a vinegar broth. Whilst I wouldn’t want a whole dish, it would be nice to sample such a different style of meal.
Chatting with Raquel she mentioned one big positive to come out of the move to the Sydney CBD was that LaMesa was now able to cater for the lunchtime crowd. LaMesa has a special lunchtime menu design around $11 meal sets. Each Lunchtime meal set contains rice, a grilled meat such as marinated BBQ Pork fillet, vegetables and a dipping sauce. Yum, I only wish I could have stayed and sampled one of these too. The Tocino, the sweetened pork with chili vinegar would be my lunchtime craving.
An authentic Filipino brunch is another new menu option for the restaurant. The Filipino brunch consists of garlic rice, a meat such as the Pork Tocino or Beef Tapa and two fried eggs.
Even though we were full we had to try a Filipino dessert. Alesah had suggested the Halo-halo but I think I will save that for the tropical weather of the Philippines. I have been really interested in trying the Leche flan.
I am so pleased we did, this simple looking dessert was another highlight of the meal. Surrounded by a rich sticky liquid toffee the dessert was sublime. I had expected the flan to have the consistancy as a creme caramel but the flan was firmer than I anticipated. It was deliciously dense and creamier and toffee flavour carried all the way though the dessert!!
In the next few weeks LaMesa will be adding a selection of Filipino beers to the menu and some lovely wines. Mr GG was a little disappointed he wasn’t able to try beer from the Philippines on the night, but it means we will be back to try more delicious Filipino food at LeMesa.Gourmet Getaways would like to thank Raquel from LaMesa for their generous hospitality.
LaMesaLevel 1, 19 Goulburn Street
Haymarket, NSW 2000
Ph: 1300 880 835