We've been waiting for months to go to La Mesa in Dee Why. Philippine cuisine is one of those cuisines that you don't often see a lot of although we've heard it's absolutely delicious so when we discover that there is a restaurant within 15 minute's drive, dishing up authentic Philippino favourites we thought that our intrepid Hooter's pals Queen Viv and Miss America would be more than up to the visit so we venture to La Mesa one howling, rainy Saturday night.
The small room is full with customers and warm lighting and numerous paintings and artifacts adorn the walls and counters. We're shown to our table and I'm glad we booked, to be sent outside again into the howling wind is not something I'd relish.
Calamansi juice $3
We've started off with drinks, Calamansi juice ($3) to be exact as I've only heard of the name, never tried the drink and of course the well loved young coconut juice. The citrus Calamansi juice is like a cross between pineapple and other tropical juices. It's light and sweet and unusual.
Young Coconut juice $3.50
The young coconut juice is mildly sweet but not overpowering so, and filled with slices of young coconut, Queen Viv's favourite which she happily scoops up.
Mixed entree $7.80
Miss America, my husband and I order the mixed entree ($7.80) to share as Queen Viv is detoxing. There is a spring roll, pork/chicken skewer, prawn cake, fried quail egg and beef tapa with a vinegary dipping sauce and a sweeter chili dipping sauce. The spring roll is fresh and crispy; the pork/chicken skewer is tender and smokily flavoured from the grill; the fried quail egg is nice if not wowing as it's a boiled quail's egg with a bit of batter; the beef tapa is delicious and richly flavoured. The star is the shrimp cake, made of prawns, sweet potato and pumpkin it is deliciously squeaky and tasty. Next time I'll order 4 of these and be quite happy.
Chicken Adobo $12.90
We're waiting about 20 minutes for our mains and when our hosts, the owners I presume, notice that we're looking around for our food, it appears gratefully a few minutes later. The Adobo chicken ($12.90) is the first to arrive, in a fish shaped bowl which holds the pieces of simmered chicken. The flavours are delicious yet slightly unusual with sugar cane vinegar, soy, garlic and black pepper. It's everyone's favourite at the table and every drop of the sauce is eaten once the chicken disappears.
Crispy Pata $17.90
The Crispy Pata ($17.90) is a gigantic dish, a prehistoric looking relic of Flintstonian proportions. There are some huge pork bones and lots of soft, tender pork meat and delicious pork crackling. It's fall apart good and despite knowing how bad for your health pork crackling is for you to eat, you just do and do and do.
Rice $2.50 per person unlimited
The Beef Caldereta ($13.90) arrives next, it's a bright red sauce with smallish chunks of beef, strips of red capcisum and olives. The unusual flavour in it is from most surprisingly, liver pate combined with tomato paste and bay leaves. As we chose hot upon the waiter's recommendation, it is indeed fairly fiery but never too much so. I have a major, unabating craving for this the next day.
Tinolang Yaman ng Karagatan $19.90
The Tinolang Yaman ng Karagatan ($19.90) is the last main to arrive and it is a huge cavernous bowl on a stand filled with an excellent variety of seafood including half a crab, prawns, mussels, calamari, salmon and white fish in a delicately fragrant broth strong with ginger, garlic and lemongrass. It's not powerful, but it's delicately perfumed and the soup is restorative.
We take a bit of a break as we need to rest our stomachs but as your eye tends to do, it wandered over to the dessert menu which showed an interesting range of sweets.
Halo Halo $7.50
The Halo Halo ($7.50) is a milkshake glass full of shaved ice, milk and ice cream with delicious morsels of fruit and beans at the bottom. It's a little difficult to eat and would have been better served in a bowl where you can scoop up the deliciously sweet morsels of unknown fruit and jellies. It's like a more delicious version of Ice Kacang and I abandon all loyalty to the Ice Kacang in favour of this new dessert. The little squares of sweetneed exotic fruit are delicious and trying to get to these at the bottom is hard but a rewarding task. Even the vanilla ice cream is delicious with more creaminess than the normal icy generic vanilla ice cream that places will give. I want this waiting for me when I die and go to wherever it is that I will go.
Special Biko $3.80
I try the Special Biko ($3.80) with young coconut and jackfruit. Unfortunately I can't actually see any jackfruit on tonight's version, only young coconut. It's a warmed rice cake made of black sticky rice enriched with coconut milk. It's good and comforting if not spectacular but then nothing can really follow the Halo Halo.
Lastly we try the Turon ($4.50), a fried banana ladyfinger with the appearance of a spring roll. We asked for ice cream with this ($1 extra) which it really needs as the ladyfinger is starchy and floury. I should think that regular bananas would be better in this if the lady fingers are as starchy as these were. It would have been lovely otherwise with the super crackly pastry and ice cream.
We exit, our stomachs full, into the howling cold night. But for once we don't notice, as we're too busy talking about the food we just ate.
La Mesa Phillipine Cuisine
Shop 2, 874 Pittwater Road (corner of Oaks Avenue) Dee Why Sydney
Tel +61 (02) 9972-9877
Dinner: Sun-Thurs 5:00-9:00pm; Fri-Sat 5:00-10:00pm
Surcharge for credit cards 2.5%. Corkage $2
I thought that the Crispy Pata deserved another close up food pornographic look don't you?