Filipino Restaurant Review: Why Lakay Kusina restaurant's boodle fight entree is great value for those trying Filipino food for the first time

Lakay Kusina owner Ariel Abrazaldo opened his restaurant at the height of the pandemic. 

(English translation follows)

Sa unang tingin, ang Lakay Kusina restaurant e parang pareho lang sa ibang mga Pinoy na restaurant sa Scarborough. Merong turo-turo sa harapan, me mga Pinoy na abubot, at maraming pagkain gaya ng piniritong isda, halo-halo, turon, sisig, atbp. na naka-display.

Ang pinagkaiba lang talaga eh yung napakaganda na presentation kumbaga ng boodle fight. Si Ariel kasi tunay na artist eh--tingnan nyo na lang ang Instagram nya.

O di ba pati yung lumpia elevated sya? Me sinturon pa na ginawa yata ng napaka-pino, napaka-liit na dahon ng saging ba yun? Naging sosy tuloy ang dating!

Clay pots and other traditional Filipino souvenirs are displayed on the walls of Lakay Kusina Restaurant in Scarborough. Photo by Yona M. Harvey, Mabuhay Canada Media

Kahit nasa gitna ng pandemik, nag-bukas pa rin si Ariel ng kanyang business. Nung lockdown kasi, nagkaroon sya ng maraming oras para ilagay sa iba't ibang sulok ng kanyang restaurant ang mga binili nyang souvenir galing sa Pilipinas. Me banga, me 'barrel man' galing sa Baguio, me mga kalesa at palayok, pati na rin yung koleksyon ni Ariel na mga sumbrero.

Ang mga dekorasyon sa Lakay Kusina ay nakalagay sa sariling kahon, para makikita mo talaga ang ganda ng bawat souvenir. Paano kaya dinala dito ni Ariel yung pagkalaki-laking mga banga?

O, mga mare't pare, ano pa ang hinihintay ninyo? Bubusugin na ang mga mata ninyo, pati na rin ang tiyan bubusogin din sa sarap ng luto ni Ariel. Naimas dayta!


Disclaimer:

Lost in translation--the English version below is not an exact translation of the Tagalog version. It's hard to translate Filipino slang, humour, culture, etc.

Consider all this in your styrofoam take-out box: grilled bangus (milkfish), pork barbecue skewer (marinated Filipino-style), two lumpia (spring rolls), grilled pork belly, fish balls, grilled eggplant, steamed okra and a turon (sweet banana roll), served with garlic rice and pansit canton. All that for $20.99 at Lakay Kusina Restaurant located at 80 Ellesmere Rd. in Scarborough.

"It's the best value meal," owner Ariel Abrazaldo said. "Perfect introduction for those unfamiliar with Filipino food."

Boodle fight is a way of eating Filipino food in a communal way: rice, barbecued meat, steamed veggies, fried fish, pork belly and a variety of other entrees are artfully arranged on top of banana leaves spread out on tabletops. Boodle fights are meant to be eaten with bare hands, however, donning plastic gloves are not frowned upon.

Two long tables are perfect for setting up boodle fights at Lakay Kusina in Scarborough. Photo by Yona M. Harvey, Mabuhay Canada Media

Lakay Kusina (lakay-an elder, kusina-kitchen) at first glance, looks just like any other Filipino restaurant. There's the turo-turo style of ordering (turo means point, as you point to the entree you want), a dozen or so shiny silver metal trays holding a variety of steaming hot menus, and a small eat-in area.

Look closer, though, and you'll notice the carefully curated Filipino souvenirs placed neatly in square wooden boxes: huge clay pots, a water pump (common way of fetching water in the Philippines), kalesa (horse-drawn carriage), lots of bamboo trays and woven products, even a collection of hats on the wall.

A wooden barrel man, perhaps the cheekiest souvenir from the highlands of Baguio City, sits proudly by the cash. Plastic cutlery isn't just tossed in any box--it's cradled in a traditional woven square basket.

The owner's hats are displayed inside Lakay Kusina restaurant. Photo by Yona M. Harvey, Mabuhay Canada Media

Abrazaldo comes out of the kitchen holding a steaming tray of food, setting it carefully it beside the other silver metal trays holding the meals. When asked why he opened a restaurant in the midst of a pandemic, he answered casually that it was actually the best time to open one.

He spent the lockdown renovating the inside of the restaurant, taking time to carefully fashion little nooks for all the symbols of Filipino life on the walls of his small business.

Scroll through Lakay's Instagram and you'll see photos of spring rolls wrapped daintily with a banana string, boodle fight entrees artfully arranged on banana leaves, meat and vegetable dishes in rectangular banana trays.

No, this isn't your typical Filipino restaurant. Abrazaldo elevates each meal, every facet of his restaurant, with his creative touch. It doesn't hurt that he's skilled in cooking traditional Filipino dishes, too. A perfect combination, just like his boodle fight entree.