Sunday, 18 August 2013

La Mesa - Haymarket - Sydney, Australia

La Mesa

My Filo uni friends talked about a new Philippine restaurant that opened in Chinatown not too long ago and said that we had to try it out to see what Filo food tasted like. Given that we always stick to the same cuisines such as Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, American or Modern Australia, I was a bit sceptical trying out something different. My only encounter with Filo food was back in the days when my Filo neighbour would cook up a few dishes for her yearly New Year's party and I didn't really fancy the flavours.

After a few email exchanges, a last minute catch up dinner was organised and off we went to La Mesa for a Friday dinner.

It's hard to pick out this restaurant from Goulburn Street as it is located upstairs on level 1 where you have to go up a set of stairs before you actually go in.

When you walk in, the interior is fairly large, decorated with a wooden theme.  The tables and chairs are squished so closely together that it's hard to move around. We were seated at the back of the restaurant and I personally found it hard to get from one end to another.

It was a fairly packed night and as my two Filo friends said it is probably because people want to try out something new given that it's the only Pilipino restaurant in the Sydney CBD.

We had an entrée to share called 'Okoy ($7.50)' which was four deep fried patties made of shrimps, shredded sweet potato, carrots and pumpkin served with chilli vinegar sauce. The portion of the vinegar sauce was so small, maybe two teaspoons, that we had to request for more. I really liked this dish and the crunchiness of it.

The 'Adobo Chicken ($16.00)' was a very small portion and we were disappointed with how small it was. It's one of the most popular Filipino dish, consisting of chicken fillets cooked in sugar cane vinegar, soy sauce, garlic and black pepper. The flavour combination was good but it was a bit strong on the vinegar.

'Lechong Kawali ($16.00)' was the dish I wanted to try most. Deep fried pork belly with crispy skin served with Mang Tomas, a traditional gravy sauce. It was fried but not fried well enough. The skin was still pale and you could still taste the abundance of oil once you bite through. Sauce had a vinegary taste to it. I was expecting it to blow my mind away but I was let down. It wasn't as good as I expected in that the pork had a strong smell to it and it wasn't fried to its golden brown colour.

'Crispy Pata'($20.00)' is their signature dish and was much like the 'Lechong Kawali'. When the waiter took this out, we were like 'WOW' that's huge compared to the other dishes we had during the night but how deceiving was that. A pork leg deep fried served with a sauce of vinegar, soy sauce, garlic and onion. The bone was huge and took up more than half of the place and the rest was very minimal. Skin and meat were fried which meant they were both crispy. This was fried to a golden brown but I still found that weird porky flavour that saturated the meat.

We initially ordered a 'Large Plain Boiled Rice ($10.00)' but thought it wasn't enough so went and ordered a 'Medium Boiled Rice ($6.00)'. We found that the medium and large were similar in bowl size so in terms of value, medium is the way to go. However, not sure if this was just for that night.

To balance out our the meaty dishes, we ordered 'Seafood with Vegetables($15.00)', and as was just seafood pieces sautéed with a mixture of vegetables. Nothing different about this dish and tasted like a Chinese stir-fry.

Given that we're dessert people, we couldn't leave without having something from their dessert menu. Five of us ordered the 'Leche Flan ($5.00)' which is the Filipino version of the crème caramel and is a vanilla flavoured egg custard with caramel sauce. Found this overly sweet with the caramel sauce on top. The flan was dense, heavy and tasted cheesy even though no cheese is present. This may have been from the condensed milk that is used to make the flan. Didn't enjoy this dessert much.

*Credits to J for the photo

The Filipino's seem to like their vinegar a lot. It was in most of the dishes we had tonight.

I enjoyed the meal and the company but I don't think I would go out of my way to have Filipino food. It's very similar to Chinese food but there's that acquired taste that you either like, don't like or will take time to like. I think I fall in the last one.

A good dining experience with a great bunch of people but the food is not my cup of tea. However, don't let my review stop you from going. The food is decent but in terms of portion size and price, it isn't the cheapest and best value for money.

Do give it a try as you may like the flavours. My Filo friends said that what we had tonight was very similar to what their parents made at home in terms of taste and texture so it is pretty good in their books.

Level 1, 19 Goulburn St
Haymarket NSW 2000

Phone no: 1300 880 835

Opening Hours
12:0pm - 3:30pm Everyday
5:30pm - 10:00pm (Sunday - Thursday)
5:30pm - 11:00pm (Friday & Saturday)

La Mesa on Urbanspoon


  1. Crispy pata! Last time we got this dish I managed to score the bone. lol. Love the combo of the crackling with the chilli vinegar.

  2. Yay for the bone! The cracking and vinegar sure go well together