Walking into Kusina Filipino was like walking into a kitchen party at a family home. There was friendly chit chat amongst the staff, who frequently ventured out from behind the till to talk and laugh with patrons and make sure they were helped.
The take-out style restaurant offers a daily rotating menu of Filipino home cooking. They post their menu online and have regular Filipino street food nights.
On the Sunday night my wife and I went, the restaurant was bustling with guests ordering take out and eating in the small dining area. Even with the steady flow of customers, the staff took time to explain each menu item and offer suggestions to us first-timers. Do yourself the favour and take their suggestions. You won’t be disappointed.
My wife and I each ordered the three-item dinner ($11 each), served in take-out containers, along with two banana spring rolls ($1 each) for dessert.
In the first three-item dinner, we got sticky rice, beef steak (Filipino style), chicken adobo, and monggo (a savoury mung bean stew). The rice and the monggo shared a section of the take-out container and blended beautifully with one another. Just the two of them alone would be a filling meal. The beef steak, marinated in soy sauce, lemon, black pepper and sautéed with onions, was perfectly tender and had a series of familiar flavours that emerged with each bite. The chicken adobo, slow simmered and served on the bone, was flavourful, yet simple and begged to be eaten by hand.
Our other order consisted of pancit bihon/Canton noodles with mixed vegetables, kare-kare, pork adobo, and a sweet chili chicken skewer. The pancit bihon/Canton noodles combine the thin translucent rice noodle (pancit bihon) and an egg noodle (Canton) similar to spaghetti, stir-fried together with mixed vegetables. It was an addictive combination of salty and sweet and was my wife’s favourite dish.
The kare-kare is a stewed beef dish with a thick peanut butter sauce. It was flavourful and moist and was excellent with shrimp paste. Cooked in the same manner as the chicken adobo, the pork adobo was equally flavourful and simple. Both had plenty of flavour without being overpowering and were enhanced with shrimp paste. Lastly, the sweet chili chicken skewer was spicy sweet, but not too spicy for the unaccustomed palate.
For dessert, we got banana spring rolls that were perfectly fried, with the banana soft but not mushy, and the wrapper crispy. It was drizzled with an irresistible caramel sauce.
There is nothing pretentious about Kusina Filipino. The staff serve food they are proud of and offer suggestions and explanations of what they were serving. The rotating menu offers variety and freshness.
This take-out style restaurant does not feel rushed and is a welcome addition to the neighbourhood. I already want to go back.
Total cost (with tip): $30.98
Five out of five forks
KUSINA FILIPINO TAKE OUT & CATERING
12329 97 St
HOURS: Tues to Thurs, 11 am to 8 pm; Fri to Sat, 11 am to 9 pm; Sun, noon to 8 pm; closed Mon.
Featured Image: Pancit bihon/Canton noodles with mixed vegetables (bottom portion of container),kare-kare (top right portion of container), pork adobo (top left portion of container), and a sweet chili chicken skewer.| Stephen Strand