I admit it – I’m culturally ignorant. I like eating, even if I’m not sure what I’m eating. I order food based on their descriptions rather than their names, and if your menu has pictures, I’m in.
So had anyone exclaimed ‘Lamesa!’ to me a few months ago, I would probably have thought Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote a second instalment of Les Miserables.
“Lamesa”, it turns out, means ‘dining table’ in Filipino, and its thus a fitting name for a little restaurant out in Dee Why, featuring Filipino cuisine. Having been there once before for a birthday dinner, I had been introduced to a range of dishes that I never knew existed. Somehow Filipino cuisine, like Thai, manages to differ quite distinctly from most other Asian cuisines – I knew I had to go back to try and re-try some dishes, a few of which has become quick favourites.
On my second trip to Lamesa, I brought along with me the boyfriend (Lamesa regular, Filipino translator, driver) and a lovely high school Filipino friend. One thing that I like about Lamesa is its cushiony seats and décor which creates this homely yet cultural feel. Its small but luxurious size also makes it a wonderful place to have a small or large gathering – you can catch up and have a good laugh without needing to be too mindful of other patrons, as compared to other restaurants where the tables are so crowded that you might as well just make friends with the stranger next to you.
While pondering over the menu (In Tagalog with English descriptions), we sipped on delightfully refreshing coconut juice. I am not the biggest fan of coconuts but I definitely wanted more of this!
The boyfriend ordered a few sharing dishes – I’m more in favour of places that encourage sharing rather than individual servings, because only this way can you truly appreciate what a restaurant can offer!
By far my favourite dish was crispy pata. Having tasted it for the first time when I first went to Lamesa, it was the one dish that left such a memorable impression that I remembered its Filipino name. The mostly boneless, crispy-skinned meat is not unlike the crackles that you find in Hong Kong-style ‘siu lap’ stores, but somehow its flavour is distinctly different. My learned Filipino compatriots inform me that this dish is one always served for the most memorable and best of occasions. I can see why.
I experienced tocino for the first time – a sweetened, tender pork dish. The meat was a unique texture to what you would expect- the mix of the caramelised pork and the accompanying vinegar sauce was definitely a surprise, but a pleasant one. Delicious.
We also had Pancit, which was pretty much a variation on the traditional stir-fry. This dish was a good accompaniment to the others and kept us full, but I wouldn’t recommend it as a stand-alone dish if you’re really searching for something distinctly Filipino.
Sharing these dishes between three people already kept our stomachs nice and full, but perhaps what we were all most excited about was the famous Filo dessert Halo Halo, literally meaning “mixed with a little bit of everything.” True to its meaning, this dessert drink was a mixture of crushed ice, young coconut, gulaman (a type of sweetened jelly), jackfruit and red bean among other things. I guess the closest thing to this would be the Malaysian Ais Kacang, but once again, it stands pretty uniquely in its own right. A must have.
It was a good old hearty meal with good food and good company. Good good good. Even though we only ordered three dishes for three people, I ended up with a bag of crispy pata takeaway – a reminder of a wonderful delicious meal!
What we think: A great place if you’re looking to experience some Filipino culture, or just want a nice homely place to eat with friends and family. The only down point is that its location in Dee Why means that it can only be reached by car (at least a half hour drive from Chatswood!)
874 Pitt Water Road (Corner of Oakes Ave)
Dee Why, 2099