Philippines: The One with the Pig Head 

iSLAS FILIPINO BBQ & BAR – 1690 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M6R 1B3
Country: Philippines   
Seating: Indoor seating with outdoor seating during the summer months. 
Must-try dish: Sisig 
The high: The restaurant offers vegetarian alternatives of the dishes that are heavy on meat. 
The low: The Sisig isn’t actually made with pig jowl and ears (or head) like it would traditionally be in the Philippines.  

The Kamayan Feast was our only prior experience with Filipino cuisine, so it was time to taste what else this cuisine has to offer. With little experience in the Philippines, we relied on pre-dinner internet research and the guidance of our server in making the final decisions for the meal. The first part of the order was easy, seeing as they had filipino beers on the menu 2 were promptly ordered.

The call to order Sisig was recurring in our research as one of the most traditional dishes coming from the Luzon region. It’s typically made with pig jowl and ears, so pretty much the head, and pork belly. It’s also common to add chicken liver to the dish making it even more decadent. At iSLAS FILIPINO BBQ & BAR, they keep the dish more palatable for a Canadian audience with pork belly and chicken instead of the main parts of the animal’s head. Although this was disappointing for us, it is also understandable. 

Sisig is an appetizer but could also be served as a main dish due to the generous amount of pork belly involved in the dish. The pork and chicken is cooked in onions, garlic, and chili and then topped with an egg and the addition of chicharon bits (pork rinds) added a crispy element to the dish. 

After ordering such an adventurous dish, we kept it simple for the second appetizer with the Lechon Wings. There’s a pound in the order and each wing was an impressive size. This was one of the only dishes on the menu with lechon – a sauce native to the Philippines that consists of liver, vinegar, chillies, and spices. It usually accompanies pork but this is another instance that the chef is modernizing Filipino dishes for a diverse audience. This dish is perfect to start tasting the native cuisine of the country.

As far as the starters go, it was our lucky night with a promotion for $1 oysters from the Maritimes. Naturally they were promptly ordered (it was a Tuesday night).

As for the mains the Adobo was an easy choice as its often referred to as the Philippines national dish. This particular dish is inspired from the Bicol region which encompasses the southern part of the Luzon islands and other nearby island provinces. The chicken is marinated in soy sauce, garlic, coconut vinegar, bay leaves, peppercorn and coconut milk and is served alongside garlic fried rice, potatoes and a sunny side egg.

The final dish was the Kare Kare Bagnet, which comes inspired by the Ilocos region in the northwestern coast of Luzon island. Fried to perfection, this pork belly dish was full of flavour and richness from the fatty cut of meat and the pool of peanut sauce in which the pork is laid atop. This dish is accompanied by eggplant, green beans, bok chow, steamed rice, and topped with crushed peanuts. This is the perfect dish to share amongst a group as the pork belly is rich and filling and although it is extremely delicious it would be tough to finish this dish on your own.

There are beers and drinks from the Philippines to taste, and a delicious looking dessert menu. We’re thrilled that this restaurant can introduce Torontonians to Filipino cuisine in a trendy space with terrific food. Another Filipino night is in the cards in the near future!

Eat with you soon, 

Mandrea Bike
(Mat & Andrea) 

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