Location: 10621 100 Ave. NW, Edmonton
Cuisine: Filipino fusion
Atmosphere: Compact and relaxed
Drinks on offer: Cocktails, wine and house-made sodas
Best bets: Breakfast burrito, crispy chicken skin chicharron, mushroom skewer, shrimp and chicken dumplings, pancit canton fried noodle
Vegetarian friendly? Yes
Additional information: Filipino breakfast/brunch menu only available until 10 a.m. Lunch menu differs drastically from dinner menu.
It’s always nice to hear the story of a food truck evolving into a bricks-and-mortar concept. Years ago, the appeal of operating one’s own food truck was strong owing to a plethora of Food Network programming and the movie Chef. However, in a climate such as ours with unforgiving, prolonged winters, owning a food truck can be anything but lucrative.
Filistix technically started out as a food trailer in 2008 and has long been serving up Southeast Asian cuisine since (it also has a fast-casual concept on the University of Alberta campus), but it wasn’t until this summer that owners Roel Canafranca and Ariel del Rosario opened a full-service eatery.
Open from morning to night, Tuesday to Sunday, the co-owners’ new restaurant – across the street from the Matrix Hotel – is serving up some fun food depending on the time of day.
With breakfast being served until only 10 a.m., you need to go early (relatively speaking) to get a taste of the interesting Filipino morning creations, which include a breakfast burrito that is entirely memorable. Filled with rich longanisa (sweet Filipino sausage), scrambled eggs, onions, cheese and a tangy mayo-based sauce, the burrito sounds basic on paper, but is a pleasure to devour. This compact breakfast also gets bonus points for maintaining its integrity while being transported before eating.
Lunch (served from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.) is very casual and fairly run-of-the-mill. If you first ate at Filistix at night as I did, you’ll likely find the lunch offerings adequate, but nothing to write home about. Plates of curried lentils and sweet potatoes or coconut curry chicken, both served with large portions of rice, were substantial in size, but nothing notable. With little to no Filipino influence on the lunch menu, aside from the chicken adobo, you can find similar flavours at plenty of other places.
The other thing that irked me about lunch was that, even though the restaurant has proper plateware and cutlery, it serves lunch on disposable plates with plastic utensils. It seems unnecessarily wasteful.
Jumping seven or so hours ahead into the evening, Filistix almost feels like an entirely new operation. Gone are the limited food and drink menus and counter-service setup and, instead, guests are guided to a table and provided menus that offer anything from a plate of crispy chicken skins and pinakurat (a Filipino vinegar that’s infused with chili and garlic) for dipping to more pan-Asian creations such as shrimp and chicken dumplings, papaya salads, grilled skewers and more.
Compared with the minimal drink menu at lunch, the restaurant is supremely creative at night with an array of house-made sodas made with tamarind and calamansi – I’m also unclear why these sodas are not offered at lunch time – bright and bold cocktails such as Uncle Buck’s (run, tamarind, lime, ginger and soda) and even a few wines.
Although the design of the room itself is minimal, the space is small enough (about 30 seats), that it fills up fast and the buzz of chatter from tables around you help create a cool atmosphere.
Yes, Filistix is at its most charming at night.
The shrimp and chicken dumplings come with a delicious peanut sate sauce. Golden and crispy on the outside, tender and well seasoned on the inside, there are no complaints here.
Likewise, the pancit Canton fried noodle is a generous dish of egg noodles, chicken, shrimp, carrots and baby bok choy. It’s nothing overly notable until you add a few spoonfuls of the pinakurat to help things pop. What I’ve learned about Filipino food over the years is that the flavours of certain dishes can be somewhat subdued … a little salty, a little sweet, but rarely acidic. That’s why there is always a dish or bottle of this seasoned vinegar on the table. It’s always a welcomed addition.
Two skewers – one made with large chunks of a remarkably beautiful pink oyster mushroom and the other with pork belly – are both well prepared and nicely seasoned. Again, a little drizzle of pinakurat on skewers like these and your tastebuds are off to the races.
A banana-filled steam rice cake with warm coconut milk (nagasari) made for a pleasant ending to a lively dinner at Filistix. The Indonesian dessert is somewhat akin to a more compact version of the Thai mango with sticky coconut rice, but with banana of course. It reminded me of my most recent trip to Southeast Asia and had me googling flight prices when I got back home.
A sign of a good dish, no doubt.