A bright and airy restaurant has emerged from the cocoon of Lasa, Far East Plaza’s favorite, this time with a simpler menu of well-executed Filipino dishes.
Queues were already starting to form in Lasita when we arrived. This is due in part to the enormous goodwill engendered by its old iteration, Lasa, which at the time was considered one of the best Filipino restaurants in Los Angeles. And this is partly because Lasita has only recently been open, it has already become popular in its own right, even though it is a work in progress.
The chefs have judiciously based their menu around two popular Filipino staples, the inasal chicken (roast chicken, marinated in spices, calamansi juice and annatto for the characteristic coloring) and the pork belly lechon (the dish by which the Most Filipino restaurants are tried). These are available à la carte in whole or half format, and on the plate with suitable accompaniments of rice, pickles, garlic mojo and a soy sauce and calamansi juice.
From someone who has been fed a lot Lechon by his Filipino in-laws over the years, the lechon was easily my favorite. The flesh retained its juiciness and the skin was as crispy as any crunch could ask for. A pound of lechon served as a rolled porchetta with top notch garlic rice, garlic mojo and a large bucket of the spectacular atchara (pickles) that accompanied it on the plate would have been five stars and done .
However, the half-inasal chicken, when the perfect color (annatto) and with gloriously tangy skin from the marinade, had dried under its cover. Plus, the chicken fat rice that supported it on the plate didn’t have the schmaltzy goodness I expected. It was by no means a bad plate, but compared to the lechon …
Next to these, we ordered eggplant accompaniments drizzled with garlic miso aioli, a wedge of iceberg lettuce topped with green goddess coconut dressing and pancit ( noodles) mixed with kangkong (water spinach). Of these, the tip of the iceberg was the most successful (I could order the Green Goddess Dressing by the full bucket).
The dessert list featured excellent local suppliers and we (or to be honest) devoured an excellent calamansi cream pie (available only on Saturdays and Sundays) from the excellent Laroolou bakery, which has a small stall in the shopping center outside. I’m all for restaurants that support other local businesses, especially when the result is as delicious as this pie.
As I said, Lasita is largely a work in progress and my three star review reflects as much of its current limited ambitions as some of the minor disappointments of the meal that we definitely enjoyed overall. I am sure that in the next few months when I return he will become just as popular as Lasa.
The atmosphere: The sunny atmosphere of Lasita’s decor, added to the truly charming nature of the staff, reminded me of sitting at a beach bar in Palawan. Cabins are my favorite seating option, but there are tables outside and two trays for couples.
The food: The food menu at Lasita is limited so I would order a family style: a pound or more of lechon, an inasal whole chicken, lots of garlic rice, a few of the iceberg salads, these awesome pickles and a range of sauces – you will probably be a happy camper.
The drinks: The drinks menu consists of natural wines, which are also available at very good prices to take away. If wines with ‘character’ aren’t right, I’m always tempted to try one of their short but great series of ciders and beers. A Trustworthy Brewing Gigil Rice Pilsner was perfect for my choices.
Tip for downtime: While there is plenty in Lasita to fill you up for just one meal, part of me knows that would make a big part of a meal-friendly walking tour around Chinatown, or even just inside. Far East Plaza, with dumplings at Mason’s and maybe another dessert from Laroolou Bakery in the same mall.