Summerlicious 2014 Restaurant #4: Casa Manila

Located at 879 York Mills Rd in Toronto

Oh, man.  I wanted really badly to have a good review for this restaurant and say that I liked my experience here, but I really didn’t have a good time.  You’ll see why below.

For my 4th Summerlicious restaurant — I know, crazy, right, and the event’s not even a week old yet!  — my mom and I had lunch at Casa Manila, a Filipino restaurant in North York near York Mills and Don Mills.  It was super convenient to get there by highway and there was sufficient parking outside the large restaurant.  Casa Manila has a huge sign proclaiming their presence on the street, so you can’t miss them!

Really nicely decorated restaurant

I had already looked at the Summerlicious menu ahead of time to see what I wanted to order.  I haven’t had Filipino food in a while — the last time was at Lamesa where I also ended up quite disappointed with the food despite its high praise and reviews.  Regardless, I was very excited to have Filipino food again and to share this with my mom on a cloudy summer day.

It was curious that we were still brought a huge jug of cold water when we requested for hot water.  We did get the pretty teapot with hot water in it and we should have asked that the cold water be brought back so that it wouldn’t be wasted.  I thought it would have been common sense though to not have brought the cold water to us at all.

We ordered our selection of appetizers, mains, and desserts quickly and waited eagerly for our food to arrive.  It was a little after 1 p.m. at this point and we were hungry to say the least.  It took a long time for our appetizers to arrive and we were a little upset at how long it took — I would say it took at least 10 minutes for food to arrive on the table.

GARLIC SHRIMP / GAMBAS
from Spanish roots, this popular dish is served with lots of garlic, red and green peppers on a sizzling plate

After these pictures were taken, as, as you know, for the sake of this blog and because I love taking pictures of food, I was ready to pick up my fork to dive into the appetizers.  However, at this moment, the server arrived at our table and dropped off the two plates of entrees.  What?!  I know that Casa Manila isn’t viewed as a fine dining restaurant and probably doesn’t care too much about the sequence of their food for their customers, but I really disliked how we didn’t even get 5 minutes to enjoy the appetizers before the mains were dropped off.  This soured the mood even more so than the fact that we waited a long time for our food to arrive and then got surprised with a sudden four plates of food on the table at once.

The garlic shrimp/gamas were easily the best dish of the entire meal (sad that we ate the best thing first).  The tiny shrimps were incredibly succulent and bouncy in taste.  The garlic was SO yummy and delicious as well.  I really loved this dish even though it looked very simple.

SPRING ROLLS /LUMPIA SHANGHAI
the Filipino answer to the Chinese spring roll; available in pork, chicken, and vegetarian with sweet potato and jicamas

I had a lot of expectations for the lumpia (spring rolls).  I’ve heard a lot about these and really looked forward to tasting it.  To my disappointment, the spring rolls themselves were plain in flavor and really needed the sauce on the side to pick up its flavor.  I appreciated how hot these rolls were.  (The garlic shrimp in comparison were only lukewarm.)

Since all the plates of food were on the table already, by the time I got to the chicken adobo, the pieces were kind of cold and not that hot anymore.  The same thing with the coconut ginger fish.  So disappointing.  The presentation of the dishes weren’t very creative as I suspect again that this is not a fine dining restaurant.  The chicken adobo is a famous national dish of the Philippines so I definitely wanted to check this out.

CHICKEN ADOBO
Filipino national dish! Garlic soy-vinegar gravy with a spicy twist to fall-off-the-bone perfection, served with garlic rice and pickled papaya slaw

There were three pieces of chicken breast and one chicken drumstick.  The meat of the chicken was well flavored as it’s been well marinated.  However, the meat itself was kind of rough and harsh.  I liked the pickled papaya slaw.  Both dishes had it.  I couldn’t even tell that it was papaya actually.  It reminded me very much of the pickled radish and carrots that are served in Vietnamese pho restaurants. 🙂

The coconut ginger fish was very soft and melted in my mouth.  There was only a very faint coconut flavor and I couldn’t taste the ginger in it at all.  This wasn’t as worth the meal since it only contained jasmine white rice instead of ginger rice and the fish wasn’t that great.  I’ve had fish in this similar texture in other restaurants but just not with this sauce.

COCONUT GINGER FISH
a coconut-ginger combination is the flavour of the Philippine Islands with basa fish and bok choy served with garlic rice

Ube Taro Smoothie. $5

When we placed our order, I also ordered a taro smoothie.  To my displeasure, this drink never appeared during this whole time so I figured that they probably forgot it.  Due to the bad service and mediocre food thus far, I didn’t want to ask the server to pursue the smoothie.  To my surprise, when it was time for dessert, the server brought the smoothie and set it down on my table.  What the heck?  Drinks are supposed to be brought out at the beginning of the meal so that the customer can enjoy the drink with the food.  Who brings it out at the very end with dessert?

The taro smoothie was cold so I couldn’t even slurp it down without making fun facial expressions because the drink was too cold.  I needed time for it to sit before actually drinking it.

Ube-Taro Cake

I’ll talk about the desserts now.  The ube-taro cake was my first time eating ube-taro!  I’ve seen it before on articles here on wordpress and kept it hidden in my mind to try in the future.  I’m very happy that I got to try this!  There were little slices of coconut on the cake and the purple icing was so, so soft and creamy.  I really loved it.  The only bad part about the cake is that it didn’t taste too taro-y and that the cake was so dry that when you forked it, it came away in little pieces.

Cassava Cake

The other dessert, cassava cake, was a delightful surprise!  While the ubo-taro cake was cold, this cake was extremely hot and reminded me of comfort food.  It was a little gooey near the bottom and it was definitely a unique dessert that is best served hot.

Since my taro smoothie was too cold, I asked for it to be packed up so that I could take it out.  We also asked for the bill at this time.  It took so extremely long for the server to bring the bill and we were quite frustrated with this.  When she finally arrived with the container of my taro smoothie, my mom and I were appalled to find that a quarter of my smoothie had seemed to vanish into thin air.  Look at these two pictures and tell me that something is missing here!  Where did the rest of the smoothie go?!

Where did all of my smoothie go?!? Compare this picture with the full glass above.

Needless to say, from this extremely long and painful write-up of the restaurant, you can tell that I didn’t have a good experience at all.  If only the food tasted a little better; if only the service was a little faster, if only I received my drink at the beginning of the meal instead of the end, and if only… You get it.  I wanted so badly to like this restaurant but after this experience, I can’t say that I would come again.

Casa Manila on Urbanspoon

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9 comments on “Summerlicious 2014 Restaurant #4: Casa Manila

  1. It’s too bad that the experience wasn’t that great, I wonder if you have a Max’s fried chicken place there, It’s a chain from the Philippines that serves good lechon (bbq pork) and Palabok (Shrimp sauce with vermicelli). The lumpias here look so itty bitty though :O

  2. Pingback: Max’s Restaurant | stenoodie

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