Filipino cuisine is already a kind of fusion cuisine, a colourful, flavourful global cuisine that embodies the collision between Asian and European (particularly Spanish) cultures. LaMesa understands this heritage implicitly, offering Sydney diners the chance to sample this rich and complex culinary history from their restaurant in the heart of Sydney’s bustling Chinatown. Haymarket locals and CBD workers regularly pack out LaMesa’s homely, welcoming restaurant on Goulburn Street, so be sure to book in advance if you’re after an authentic meal made according to traditional recipes drawn from across the Philippines.
Family-owned and operated, LaMesa moved to its current Haymarket location along Goulburn Street in 2012, after spending ten years in Dee Why building up a loyal local following. Now, in the heart of Chinatown and Sydney’s central business district, LaMesa is perfectly positioned to promote Filipino cuisine and culture all the better. Lunch specials draw a big crowd to LaMesa most days of the week and, with sittings for specials only available from noon until 3pm, it’s best to book to secure a spot. Lucky lunchers can then enjoy great value meals consisting of LaMesa’s well-researched indigenous recipes, and the Spanish-Filipino fusions that make the food of the Philippines so unique. The aprtitada chicken, beef calderata, tocino pork, and daing na bangus (marinated and fried milkfish served with a hot chilli vinegar sauce) are all surefire winners and perfect introductions to LaMesa’s broader Filipino offering.
Dinner at LaMesa is served from 5:30pm and the a la carte menu at this Sydney Filipino restaurant is packed with surprises. Try the battered and fried quail eggs as an appetiser, served with sweet chilli sauce, or begin with a round of okoy, deep fried patties of shrimp, sweet potato, carrots, and pumpkin, eaten dipped in a chilli vinegar sauce. The core offering at this standout restaurant in Haymarket (down Goulburn Street in Chinatown, in fact) is divided across chicken, pork, beef and seafood dishes, with a good number of vegetarian options like the traditional pinkabet and ginisang sitaw sa baboy listed separately. So, yes, it is a generally carnivorous affair at LaMesa, with our favourite being the section wryly entitled Not For The Faint Hearted. These are the true Filipino dishes that are unmissable if you’re an adventurous foodie: dinuguan cooks pork neck and pork blood jelly in a vinegary broth, while the sizzling sisig seasons cuts from a pork head with ginger and traditional spices before cooking, and the ginisang ampalaya a popular option in the Philippines (but an acquired taste for novice palates) that sautees bitter melon with minced pork and egg. LaMesa is a great place to get stuck into one of the world’s most interesting culinary domains.
Food is good and authentic but service needs improvement. It was not too busy that day and the waitresses were not serving customers, yet it was still difficult to catch the attention of the waitresses to the point where the chef in the open kitchen had to tell the waitress that we were asking for them.
Service was good, a little slower than expected for the food to come out. Ordered the chicken adobo which was presented well but more sour than sweet (my preference). Also ordered the crispy pork which was delicious. Experience could be enhanced by some complimentary starters or something. Just something to get the taste buds going.
While the service was OK, the food was not up to the usual standards experienced on earlier visits. The beef is the Bistik was of a poor quality. Some pieces were Ok - some were inedible. The eggplant in the stuffed eggplant was again, inconsistent. Some parts were fine others still seemed to be raw. The Crispy Pata, Adobo chicken and Sans Rival were up to the usual standard though.