I decided to try Filipino cuisine, at a restaurant for the first time. I have had authentic Filipino dishes before, prepared by Filipino families, but I never knew what I was eating; so was now worried about having to order by myself, for myself. But my 50% off any restaurant food order entertainment book coupon persuaded me to try anyways.
The front window displays an example of their cake baking abilities. A four tiered wedding cake with roses and smooth pipping; surrounded by smaller and just as creamy looking one and two layered cakes. The same window display also showcases their clothing and accessory line. A series of tee shirts and totes that ask if you have had popular Filipino food items. “Got Adobo?” The staff are walking advertisements for these. Each one of the Filipinos employed here boasted a “Goldilocks” tee shirt on their backs. There was a friendly group of ladies working the front, all different in ages. None look to be are related, but based on body language and speech, they were all family.
The restaurant is half bakery and half fast food chain. On one side you have your cakes, breads, and pastries. Refrigerated showcases of delicate flowered cupcakes, pastel frosted cookies in pink and purple, and cakes blank and ready to be pipped on with a celebratory greetings.
The restaurant side was labelled overhead with an “Asian Cuisine” sign. Under it is a heated glass counter. In it, pre prepared dishes. Premade meats with rice or fried noodles boxed up and ready to go. But if you choose to dine in the exact same dishes are available plated and warm, ready for eating.
Not being able to make heads or tails out of the chalk board menu and not knowing how anything tasted I relied heavily on the young Filipino girl who serviced me from behind the counter. I took her suggestions and she took the time to give them.
My multi item order was assembled at the counter, then placed on a fast food tray. On the tray was an image of their logo with their “Goldilocks” mascot printed on. I took this to any table to eat in peace. Utensils were self serve by the cash desk, and a tank of water with glasses was available to the side, for those who wanted it to help themselves. If you can’t finish your meal ask for to go boxes to pack it all up. I actually thought it was cool that their styrofoam boxes came in black instead of the more commonly seen white varieties.
“Pancit palabok”, rice noodles with shrimp flavoured garlic-annato sauce, topped with sautéed ground pork, tofu, chicharon, smoked fish flakes, sliced boiled egg, green onions, and fried garlic. I was not expecting much, seeing it pulled out as is, from behind the glass and just placed on a plastic branded tray. The flavours were muted and they offered no excitement in any of the bites. It was just noodles meant to fill you up. The only thing I did like was the presentation. Still hot they place the noodles into one of their take out containers to give it this structure, when cooled they up side down it on to a plate for serving.
I upgraded my crispy pork and rice to a “Rice Medley”, after seeing it come up to the counter for another customer. This plate came with the same pork and rice, but with the addition of raw tomatoes, un ripened mangos, and a semi cooked egg. I was later informed to mix all the components together and have the egg coat the rice and cook down further, with the existing warmth of the other ingredients. The pork was tasty, and the mango had a nice added hard texture, with its own distinct taste. But over all this was another bland pre made, nothing special dish. It needed a lot of salt and pepper to rejuvenate it. In their defensive the girl offered me hot sauce, and I only took a dollop of it, when I apparently needed a cup. I ended up eating only the pork and mango, and discarding over 3/4 of the dish. Luckily the prices were inexpensive and I didn’t have to struggle with too great of a buyer’s remorse.
“Halo halo”, is the Filipino version of a sweet iced bean drink that is available in many south East Asian countries. It is a refreshing dessert drink, that is as filling as it is thirst quenching. The sweet milky texture comes from crushed ice, coconut milk, and condensed milk. The chunks are yellow and purple yams, red jelly, red and yellow beans, shredded coconut meat, chick peas, and what I think is chestnuts. It is a meal in a plastic to go cup, sipped through a thick bubble tea straw. This is an acquired taste with the coconut milk and smorgasbord of lentils and dried nuts and fruits. After all the liquid is gone I usually sieve through the elements I want to eat, then discard the rest.
I remember loving “polvoron” when I first had it years ago. So now I wanted to once again have this Filipino version of a shortbread cookie for dessert. They came in four different flavours, wrapped up by color, inside a showcase. Where as I only wanted one of each, the deal was to buy six and save on the tax, so I went ahead and got her to add another two, the most popular two flavours. The “polvoron” were made in Canada, exclusively for “Goldilocks”. Each one started with flour, milk, sugar, shortening, and vanilla extract. Then depending on the wanted flavoring, selected ingredients were added to the mix. They are known for their melt in your mouth, crumbly texture. The yellow “polvoron” was original. The red ones were “pinipig” flavoured, made with crisped rice. You really got a great texture each bite in. Both the yellow and red were the most popular ones. Red was personally my favourite. The “Ube Polvoron” was wrapped in clear cellophane to highlight its purple colour from the taro yams used in its production. I really didn’t get that flavour, but appreciated the fun colour, while I allowed a bite to melt on my tongue. The blue cellophane ones identified the cookies and cream flavour. A North American taste twisted into a Filipino classic. As with the ube, I got no distinctive taste from this one.
Seeing a half loaf of “Rainbow bread” sitting on a rack, I had to take it to go. It is just regular white bread tied dyed in some groovy colours. I bought it for the look and the added interest it would bring to my food pictures. It tasted like white bread, at half the loaf, and not quite half the price.
My entire interaction was lengthy and complicated. Between me changing my order, the girl not knowing how to ring through my entertainment book coupon, the woman who helped her to do so doing it incorrectly, and the another girl just coming to take my money, it was a long process. As a result with all the goings on my first quoted price was $58. It was later amended after much consultation. In the end my total barely broke $25.
Would I come back? – No. I am not a fan of Filipino cuisine, it shares a very similar spice pallet with other Asian cuisines that I prefer and can get else where. The food was made ahead of time and kept in a heated counter, and it showed. Had the food been made to order, my answer would have been different. But from what I understand, the cooking process of Filipino food is lengthy. In order to have their food fast, this is the only way they could accommodate their customers.
Would I recommend it? – If you are Filipino this is the place for you, though I am sure they all already know this. Authentic Filipino dishes made like how they would be done in the Philippines, prepared and served to you by Filipinos who speak the language and know the culture. In fact I was the only non Filipino guest during my Friday lunch time visit.
But for the non Filipinos, not familiar with the cuisine, this is a good place to start. Like me if you don’t know what to get, you can ask and be given great suggestions by staff knowledgable, with first hand information. Everything I had came to under $25, so if you get something and don’t like it, it wouldn’t put too big of a strain on your wallet. You can’t say you don’t like it if you don’t try it.