Photo courtesy of Casa Manila
With Toronto being home to the largest Filipino population in Canada, it is easy find a restaurant that serves that nation’s food, whose flavors are shaped by the ingenuity of the people on this archipelago and culinary traditions from the Spanish, American, Chinese, Indonesia, and Malaysian. Casa Manila emerged as a popular spot after opening in 2012 by owner Mila Nabor-Cuachon. It is known for its kamayan menu and other hearty regional dishes, as well as the tropical décor that transports diners to the Philippines.
In Tagalog, “kamayan” means “by hand.” It also refers to a communal style of eating in the Philippines known as “boodle fight,” a term with origins from the American colonial period. In this military practice, soldiers across ranks would gather and feast together. Defying your imagination of a grand and wholesome feast, kamayan does not use shining china or spotless silver ware. Instead, what you’ll find on the table is a green banana leaf where a spread of protein and vegetables lay, paired with rice and a sauce that brings everything together. Without plates or utensils, the diner uses their fingers to scoop up the food.
One of Casa Manila’s bestselling items is the premium kamayan platter, which offers a mix of seafood, beef, pork, and chicken with pickled cucumber, tomatoes and papaya slaw. You can have a choice of plain steamed rice or garlic rice, and the housemade secret sauce, an equally crucial element of the meal.
Those who don’t eat meat can go for the vegan platter, which does not compromise on the bold and vibrant Filipino flavor. It comprises crispy lumpia (the country’s version of spring rolls), tofu and vegetable adobo-style as well as in aromatic coconut and ginger sauce.
Besides kamayan, Casa Manila also serves some unique dishes. In 7-up garlic prawns, the crustaceans are cooked with their shell on in a concoction of 7-up, garlic and the restaurant’s own seasoning. There’s also the beef and vegetables kare kare – a rich savory peanut stew.
To end the meal, halo halo refreshes the palate with 12 ingredients, including a special in-house cream blend, topped with assorted candied fruits, sweet beans, custard, purple yam, ice cream, and rice flakes.
Despite its roots in military feasting, kamayan is a sensory experience. At Casa Manila, diners roll up their sleeves to feel the texture of the food with their hands as they engage in conversation with their companions. For a moment, they are transported to the tropical islands in the Philippines and connect with each other over the dining table, just like the different cultures that have influenced Filipino cuisine throughout its history.
879 York Mills Road,
North York, ON.
Kamayan sets are at $32.95 + HST per person with a minimum order of two sets.
À la carte items range from $10 to $23.
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