Kamayan Feast @ Lamesa Filipino Kitchen (Queen West)

I was invited to a kamayan dinner at Lamesa Filipino Kitchen, and having heard great things about Lamesa over the years, I RSVPd as soon as I got the invitation. I was so eager to finally try the food at Lamesa, that I did not read the WHOLE invitation. In fact, I had no clue what “kamayan” even meant!

Kamayan style: meaning “with hands,” from the Filipino “kamay” = “hand”

In other words, no utensils! Ick! Okaaaayyyyy, let’s admit it—not using utensils and eating with our hands is not unusual, we just avoid doing so in public! And well, culturally, being Hispanic, I don’t always use utensils when I eat, but I do use tortillas or bread to act as a vessel for the food I am consuming. That said, this dinner experience was going to be an opportunity where eating with your hands was not only going to be acceptable, but also mandatory.

Set up:
Every table had banana leaves covering it. Imagine a tablecloth made out of banana leaves.

Food:

Sauces

  • Bagoong caramel – fermented shrimp paste
  • Soy garlic puree
  • Housemade hot sauce – roasted red pepper, chilies, vinegar, sugar
  • Sawsawan gel – soy, vinegar, garlic

Salad

  • Green mango salad – sour mango, heirloom carrots, arugula, radish, sweet mango chutney, garlic corn nuts

Meat & Seafood

  • Sisig lettuce cup – chicken, pork, beef with chilli, garlic and onions
  • Kare Kare oxtail – braised oxtail in a peanut garlic sauce
  • Smoked boneless bangus – marinated milkfish
  • Crispy chicken adobo wings – soy and vinegar reduction
  • Clams and mussels ginataan – coconut milk, ginger and garlic

Sides

  • Garlic fried rice with crispy garlic bits
  • Grilled corn
  • Grilled baby bok choy
  • Ube cornbread – sweet purple yam
  • Chicken tinola broth – chicken, chayote, ginger

Garnishes

  • Kale chips
  • Fresh calamansi
  • Sweet pea shoots

Experience:

There was an air of excitement when the food was being placed on the table. The staff seemed to have a system to their “madness.” You really got the sense that they had practiced this process and there was a reason why each item was placed where and when. It started with the sauces, followed by the construction of the mango salad, then the rice, meat, fish, vegetables, garnishes and it ended with the most delicious corn bread I have had in a very long time.

Highlights:

*Watching the food be placed throughout the table. It really felt like food was being used as art and the banana leaves was the canvass.

*The cornbread made with purple yam was delicious. I told the chef how much I liked it, and minutes later I was handed a small to-go container filled with the corn bread! Made me so happy!

*Eating with my hands with a bunch of fellow bloggers trying not to over-think the experience. I did cheat by using the shells of the clams as a utensil. Sue me!

*The cocktails. I can’t remember what they were called, but they  tasted fresh, crisp and exotic. Just what I like.

Would I do it again?

Maybe. I loved the whole theatrical aspect of the experience, and several of the dishes were delicious. However, I am a picky eater in that I do not eat onions. Several of the dishes had onions and as a result I was only able to eat some of the food that we were served and was still hungry after I left the restaurant. So much so, that before I even got on the streetcar, I had already inhaled the corn bread I was gifted.

The staff at Lamesa did say that if you can’t eat certain things and/or have an allergy, that you can let them know in advance and they will try to accommodate you.

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The kamayan dinners are available every Sunday from 5 PM and the cost is $40 per person. Call to make a reservation. I think that with friends and/or family, a kamayan-style dinner would be a fun culinary adventure.

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