If you missed it, I am trying to eat at an authentic restaurant from every country in the world right here in Toronto (or as many countries as possible).
I had been researching Filipino food in Toronto (there are many Filipino restaurants in Toronto) and the restaurant that I kept coming back to was Max’s Cuisine of the Philippines at Steeles and Dufferin.
Our condo building’s superintendent (whose name is Mario, so obviously we call him Super Mario, and he is just the friendliest most lovely man with the brightest smile) is from the Philippines, and Evan knows him quite well so he mentioned we were planning on going to Max’s and just casually asked him what we should order if we wanted to eat traditional Filipino food. According to Evan, the conversation went something like this:
Evan: Hey Mario, we’re going to Max’s for dinner tonight. If we’re looking to eat authentic Filipino cuisine, what should we order?
Mario: Oh, I’ll find out! [gets out his phone]
Evan: Right, but what’s like a traditional Filipino dish we should eat?
Mario: I know, I’m asking!
Evan: But…who are you asking?
Mario: The owners!
Evan: Oh but… Wait, what? You know the owners of Max’s?
Mario: Of course, we are friends!
Evan: So you’re going to send them a message?
Mario: No, I’m going to call them. I’ll let you know what they say!
Evan: Well. Okay then. Thank you!
So then later on in the day Evan received this message from Mario.
It was extremely busy when we arrived at Max’s. Like, I cannot believe how packed it was for a Tuesday night. Families at every table, having a good time. But expecting us they were, and they recognized us immediately and got us a table very quickly. The service truly could not have been any better. Now, this could have been because they wanted to make a good impression on us, like when the food critic comes to the restaurant and the staff goes above and beyond to make sure their experience is awesome… But it seemed like all the diners in there were experiencing the same treatment, so I don’t think that was the case.
Max’s is a chain restaurant that originated in the Philippines and now has locations in the US (Americans, find your stores here!) and Canada, as well as still in the Philippines (and it’s coming to the Middle East!).
Max’s is famous for the chicken, and it seemed kind of like the Swiss Chalet of Canada (I don’t mean their chicken was like Swiss Chalet, I mean Max’s is to the Philippines what Swiss Chalet is here) but that doesn’t mean it’s not authentic. The food was legit (as far as I can tell).
We started with (non-alcoholic) drinks. The calamansi (lime) drink for Evan, and the Sago at Gulaman drink for me, a local Filipino beverage with brown sugar, water, gelatin, and tapioca pearls over shaved ice.
I did not know about the tapioca pearls or the gelatin before I ordered it and I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about that, but I do know I like drinks and snacks all in one (a la Caesars) and I enjoyed it.
We went with Mario’s/the manager’s recommendation and started with the fresh lumpia, or Lumpiang Sariwa.
A crepe filled with slices of coconut heart and other vegetables and topped with a garlic peanut sauce and chopped peanuts. Similar to a spring roll. I think we would have really liked the crispy deep fried one also. Next time. The crepe was soft and fresh and I enjoyed this a lot, especially the sauce. I started spooning more sauce onto my crepe before I even took one bit and Evan was all “You don’t even know if you like the sauce yet.” Oh, I already know I like the sauce. I like all the sauce.
And we did the crispy pata, which is basically fried pork knuckles.
We probably would not have ordered this if if hadn’t been for Mario’s recommendation. When I was reading about Filipino food beforehand, the description of this dish started with “Not for the easily spooked!” And I am not easily spooked, but I don’t love the idea of pork knuckles. This was refreshingly good though. The pork inside was tender and juicy and the skin was crispy and had a great flavour. I just tended to avoid the jelly parts (between the meat and the skin), and that is a texture thing for me. Otherwise I enjoyed.
For my main I ordered the chicken adobo.
And I am so glad I did! I got garlic rice on the side, and the combination of that sauce and the garlic rice was heaven. Seriously, I could have drank the sauce. The chicken was also surprisingly good. This was my favourite dish we ordered, hands down. I loved it.
Evan needed to try the fried chicken, since it is their signature dish and he loves fried chicken (who doesn’t?).
With egg noodles and garlic rice. I really liked the egg noodles! I saw reviews that said the chicken was a bit on the dry side, but we did not find that to be the case at all. Actually, after trying it, I thought it was understandable how Max’s is famous for it.
At every table there is this banana sauce that is made in the Philippines.
We were asking the owner about it and he said he mixes it with Tabasco sauce and Worcestershire and then puts it on his chicken, so we tried that as well. Very good. I am all about the sauces!
When we finished our meal the manager came over and said she was going to bring us the best dessert in the Philippines! The leche flan.
I don’t have any other desserts from the Philippines that I can compare it to, but I will tell you that it was absolutely delicious and tasted like butterscotch pudding.
I would also like to note that Max’s seems to be famous in the local Filipino community for its Halo-Halo, a popular summer treat in the Philippines. I didn’t realize this until afterwards but I saw a ton of people ordering it and I was wondering what it was.
Pretty elaborate. I’ve never seen a dessert so colourful. I’m not sure if that looks like my kind of thing, but people seem to go nuts for it.
And that concludes our fantastic Philippines experience. It was a delicious one. Actually, everywhere I’ve eaten so far for this project has been really great.
Past Happy or Hungry Eats the World adventures: