Philippine cuisine is heavily influenced by Chinese, Malay, Spanish and American flavours as a result of various past colonies of the country. However, Filipino cuisine has yet to reach mainstream popularity in Sydney. So, I have never tried Filipino food until now, but my friends assure me that I am in for a good hearty feast.
The restaurant is located on level one and the bright orange wall by the stairs was decorated with colorful straw-woven hats. The restaurant's interior is artfully-furnished with the greenery pot plants on the floor, black and white colonial photos on walls and mirrors on the ceiling, they all make La Mesa more homely and inviting.
When we arrived at 6pm, I was surprised to see the place was fully packed with diners. We started the evening with an original San Miguel Philippine Beer, the Red Horse Beer ($7) and it was one of the strongest beers I have tasted. The beer tasted malty and sweet at first and then the strong 7% alcohol content hits you. We also ordered a jug of coke ($10) to dilute down the beer's after-effect.
The menu was full of exotic-sounding dishes that I never heard of, so I followed my friends' recommendations. The staff were friendly but very distracted. It looked like a busy night for La Mesa and they were under-staffed.
Tinolang Tahong -Mussels cooked with ginger, garlic and onions $16
Our first dish, Tinolang Tahong ($16.00) took a while to arrive. When it did, we were keen to try the plump juicy green mussels cooked in a ginger, garlic and onion broth. It was a hearty dish with soul-warming soup base. This was a dish that's made for winter.
Our table got excited when the waitstaff brought out a large platter of "deep fried pork leg with crispy skin". This was La Mesa's most popular signature pork dish - the Crispy Pata.
Crispy Pata - Signature Dish: tender pork leg deep fried to make its skin and meat crispy, served with a sauce of vinegar, soy sauce and garlic $21
I can honestly say, these crispy pork crackings were undoubtedly the highlight of the evening and possibly the best in Sydney. The meat remained moist and tender despite the deep fry treatment.
The dipping sauce of vinegar, soy sauce, garlic and onion was an excellent flavour enhancer and it also cut out the excess oil and grease of the dish. It was an addictive dish and soon we lost our table-manners and used our hands to enjoy this dish.
We finished the meal with another Filipino classic, the Sans Rival Cake ($7.00). This was a divine meringue cake with 4 layers of thin, crispy and chewy cashew nut meringue wafer and topped with special buttercream frosting. It was truly a dreamy, creamy dessert.
It was my first taste of the Philippine cuisine and my palate certainly enjoyed a tasty Filipino food adventure. The food I had the pleasure of trying was carefully prepared, delectable and was truly Filipino. La Mesa has got me wanting more.
I have to admit, I have never seen a Philipino restaurant. I have seen some dishes as I have friends that are Philipino. But, I can't imagine there is much in the way of vegetarian. Did they have anything on the menu?
Lucky to have spent some time in Boracay a couple of years ago. The food was sensational everywhere we went. Thoroughly recommend Pilipino food if you haven't tried it before. And the Red Horse beer is very good, but best drunk lying on a beach under a palm tree!
We enjoyed our visit on a Sunday afternoon and found the food delicious. Portions are generous; we decided to split a main - Lechong Kawali aka Pork Belly - and are so glad we did because we ended up taking some home with us.
We were nuts about the appetizers, too. The Lumpiang Shanghai are super; they're crunchy and filled with meat. The Okoy and Quail Eggs are musts for our next visit, too.
Sadly, they had run out of the Sans Rival Cake but we'll be back to try it and different mains, too.