Twitter/Instagram Handle: @CasaManilaTO
Address: 879 York Mills Rd. Toronto, ON
When I visited: March 11th, 2015, Media dinner
During my first visit to Casa Manila, I was thoroughly impressed with the restaurant offerings and hospitality (read about my first visit). I had an opportunity to partner with Casa Manila for a media tasting and happy to share the exciting offerings that they have to offer.
Owner, Mila Nabor-Cuachon had bought Casa Manila back in 2010, which was previously an existing Filipino fast food restaurant. She was able to transform the restaurant to a beautiful sit-down restaurant that provides delicious, healthy and classic Filipino dishes that fits their mission statement:
“We strive to make known that Filipino cuisine is distinct and unique deserving to be shared with people of other cultures. We will provide fresh, healthy (no MSG added, less salt & oil, leaner cuts of meat, and vegetarian menu items), and delicious Filipino cooking for dine in, take-out, delivery, banquet, and catering services. At CASA manila, our goal is to provide a pleasant experience of Filipino hospitality and cultural artistry in an, authentic tropical setting depicting a humble seaside resort”.
That is exactly what the bloggers and I felt during the evening…an evening at a tropical resort in the Philippines enjoying a scrumptious meal. We were treated to a traditional “Kamayan” style dinner, where we ate with our hands with fresh banana leaves as our plates. This was truly a fun and bonding experience that was a feast for our senses, and a true representation of the Filipino ancestral tradition. Kamayan feasts has continued until this day for various celebrations.
During the dinner, Mila graciously explained each dish thoroughly as well as the origins of each dish. The history lesson was eye-opening and informative.
We started out with the calamansi mojito cocktail, featuring the national citrus of the Philippines. The drink was refreshing and tarte, a great start to the dinner and a complimenting drink to our meal. Casa Manila also serves pop and beer native to the Philippines, including San Miguel beer and Sarsi root beer. As a snack, we had adobo dusted popcorn, which gave the popcorn a subtle salty and sweet flavour.
Our first appetizer was Casa Manila’s take on the Filipino classic, chicharon. The chicharon was created using chicken skin, rather than the crispy pork skin with a light adobo seasoning topped with a pickled green papaya slaw served with an aioli. We also enjoyed the lumpia Shanghai (springroll), which has its roots from the Chinese (hence the name), with a flavourful meaty center.
I am obsessed with good soup, and Casa Manila’s sinigang baka (beef tamarind soup) hit the spot with a sour Filipino tamarind base with vegetables including okra, jalapeno, eggplant, tomato and bok choy (plus there was no MSG!).
Now, the show stopper was next, the Kamayan feast! I could see the excitement in everyone’s eyes on the beautiful masterpiece that was carefully placed at our table; a feast that we would quickly devour!
The Kamayan feast was proportioned for the number of guests at the table. The feast included:
- Inihaw Baka– Thinly sliced grilled beef ribs infused with Casa Manila’s marinade.
- Lechon Kawali (Crispy pork belly), a Filipino iconic favourite –served with Casa Manila’s lechon sauce and seasoned vinegar.
- Hilaw Manga Insalada (green mango salad) which was combined with jicamas, tomato, red and green onions, a tangy salad made to eat with grilled and fried food.
- Tinuhog na Manok (chicken skewers) served with the dipping sauces, which I will discuss more shortly.
- Flying Tilapia- It was beautifully presented and the highlight of the feast for me. The meat was tender, and the skin was fried to a golden brown.
- Papaya Slaw and other vegetables which included tomatoes, cucumber and hot peppers which helped balanced the meal.
- Garlic rice, a tasty base.
With each bite, we had a choice of dipping our food into various vinegars, the house made bagoong (shrimp paste) or the Mabuhay collection of sauces including the creamy coconut ginger sauce (ginataan), adobo (tangy soy garlic sauce), and the savoury peanut sauce (kare kare). Each sauce had its own unique taste, all delicious in its own way.
Each sauce has its healthy profile. The savoury peanut sauce has no MSG and is gluten-free, and the adobe sauce is fat-free and is vegan, which are unlike many store-bought sauces that are full of preservatives. The quality of the ingredients stays true to Casa Manila’s vision in serving healthy and delicious food. The sauces were perfect for dipping, as well as cooked in a dish.
We had several demonstrations at the restaurant to showcase how quickly a meal can be made with the sauces.Using the Mabuhay collection of sauces, home cooks can make a delicious meal in less than 20 minutes. With instructions on the back on the bottles, even amateur cooks can learn how to make a tasty Filipino dish with the sauces quickly.
With our Kamayan feast, we had additional add-ons including the sisig pork mask (pig head meat) and sisig bangus (milk fish). Although I was already stuffed at this point, I couldn’t resist tasting the savoury dishes.
Of course, we could not leave without having to taste the famous Filipino dessert, Halo Halo (Mix Mix). The Casa Manila version for our table was the largest one I have ever seen! The dessert represents the mix of cultures that make up the Filipino culture today. The finely shaved ice, covered with a cream mixture, topped with assorted fruits, sweet beans, custard, purple yam, puffed rice and crowned with Casa Manila’s ube (taro ice cream).
Even more exciting news is that Casa Manila is now selling ice cream flavours representing the tropical Philippines including ube (taro), coconut, mango and avocado, made by Marble slab and available for purchase at Casa Manila.
With all the drool-worthy pictures, let’s recap again on Why do you need to come visit Casa Manila?
- The Kamayan Dinner is priced at $28/per person. There needs to be a minimum of 4 and the food is adjusted based on the size of your party. The experience is incredible, the food is delicious and you will be stuffed!
- Casa Manila offers a large selection of classic dishes and beverages on their menu. The food is authentic!
- The food has no MSG, there is low sodium and oil.
- The house-made bagoong (shrimp paste) really highlights the flavours in many dishes. Casa Manila rocks the flavours of their sauces in each dish!
- The Mabuhay collection of refrigerated sauces can transform the Casa Manila flavours in the comfort of your own home. The creamy coconut ginger sauce (ginataan), adobo (tangy soy garlic sauce), and the savoury peanut sauce (kare kare) are available at the restaurant for $8.99 a bottle. This is a reasonable price given the quality, convenience and taste of the sauces!
- Casa Manila has partnered up with Marble slab to to produce the ube (taro), coconut, mango and avocado ice cream, available for purchase at the restaurant ($12.50 for a tub).
- ….starting at the end of February 2015, every Saturday evening starting at 9pm is Karaoke Dance Night. Come with your friends, eat a delicious meal and have a blast!
* Thank you Casa Manila for the invitation. The meal was complimentary but the opinions in the post are entirely my own.