WARNING: I pronounce a lot of words incorrectly, as identified by one of my Filipino friends. I swear I tried! I will admit that my knowledge of Tagalog is non-existent.
Kanto by Tita Flips is a Filipino street food shop and the brainchild of chef and owner Diona Joyce. The shop launched in Spring 2012, and is located in Market 707, a unique retail and food market housed inside retrofitted shipping containers situated right outside Scadding Court Community Centre at Bathurst and Dundas (on the southeast corner). It’s also right across from Toronto Western Hospital. Hospital visits are never really a fun thing, but I’d recommend checking out Market 707 if you’re there!
Honestly, I’m in love with what they’ve done at Market 707. The shipping containers being converted into street food vendors (and other retail things too, like bike repair and cell phone accessory shops) just look beautiful. Even if they didn’t have beautiful end to end burner graffiti pieces on their walls they’d still look great. The graffiti is beautiful though. I’m impressed by the menu at Kanto. It’s very easy to read, descriptive and looks great with helpful pictures beside each item. As a Filipino food newbie, this was very welcome!
The Food (WARNING: There are pictures of balut below — and it may be graphic for some)
Let’s get it out of the way first. Balut is a partially fertilized duck embryo that is boiled (for 45 minutes) and commonly sold as street food in the Philippines. I’m a sucker for trying new and weird (to foreigners) things out, so I absolutely HAD to try this. First off, I’m dumb and I opened it upside down! Second, it looks kinda gross, but nowhere near as gross as the visuals you’ll find if you Google “balut”. From what I was told by the owner Diona, these balut are 14-day old, which is a lot less developed than what the pictures you’ll see online are. There is liquid in the shell that you should drink, and it tastes like a duck consommé, like a rich broth. The egg yolk part was very creamy and smooth, not crumbly like a regular hard-boiled egg can be. As far as the partial duck embyro, it didn’t remind me of much texture-wise, but I did eat it with the yolky part, and I was glad to not experience any crunchiness. Overall, I’d say it was kind of like a rich hard-boiled duck egg. It was good… not bad and not great, but good!
Tosi-log ($6.50/$7.00 with drink) — Tocino (Filipino sweet bacon), garlic fried rice, fried egg and atchara (papaya slaw)
The tocino was very sweet, crisp on the outside and tender on the inside. I loved the crispy garlic pieces that were sprinkled over everything, it added to everything, including the rice. The fried egg was cooked perfectly, having a nice soft texture and runny yolk, like an over easy style egg. The atchara was a unique type of coleslaw that I’d never tried before. It had ginger and papaya in it, giving it a sweet flavour while still having the sour flavour expected from a vinaigrette style coleslaw. If you’re a fan of ginger, papaya and coleslaw, this is a winner. I also got a Calamansi iced tea… which is just amazing (9/10). Calamansi is a unique fruit native to the Philippines. It’s a fruit that like a tangier, tastier lime. Also pictured below is Sarsi, which was described to me as South Asian root beer. I will say this: if you’re a fan of licorice/anise, that is the most prominent and VERY strong flavour in Sarsi, along with a little bit of root beer (8/10). One thing I should note is that everything you order from Kanto is made to order. There’s no previously cooked food sitting under heat lamps… it’s all fresh here, and that’s appreciated.
Lechon Kawali ($7.50/$8.00 with drink) — pork belly pan fried until the skin is crispy, served with garlic fried rice, lechon sauce and atchara
Yum. The pork belly is just delicious, and paired with crispy skin, it works so well. There’s a similar dish in Chinese BBQ that I love, and that carries over to this as well. My only complaint is that the skin itself seems to be pretty plain, and could use perhaps some more salt or seasoning. The lechon sauce is very interesting, bringing a sweet and sour flavour, while having a thick gravy-like texture. In hindsight, perhaps the skin lacks flavouring so that it doesn’t overpower the flavour of the sauce. I still really liked this dish.
Sisig Fries ($6.75) — offal meat (pig’s ears and snouts) boiled and grilled and chopped into fine pieces, marinated in lemon, vinegar and spices. Topped with Lechon Kawali and garlic lemon aioli on a bed of crispy fries
Another item that caught my eye because of the offal meat! For me, offal isn’t too crazy since I’ve eaten a lot of odds and ends through dim sum and hot pot. However, in this plate, with wonderful presentation I might add, you can’t even tell it’s there! It’s perfectly masked between the delicious Lechon Kawali, the lemon garlic aioli and the fries. I’m actually pretty sure the offal would be delicious on its’ own but this is great. I had a friend call it Filipino poutine. I’d say it’s BETTER than most poutines.
Lumpia Shanghai Chicken or Pork (10 pieces Pork – $4.00, Chicken – $5.00) — ground meat and vegetables rolled into tiny spring rolls with sweet chili sauce
These are nice crispy spring rolls that taste great! The sauce is awesome too. The picture below is of the chicken variety (though both are basically identical looking).
Sans Rival ($3.00) — dessert cake made of layers of buttercream, meringue and chopped cashews
A really tasty dessert that’s deceptively light. It looks like a pretty rich cake, but it’s meringue texture melts in your mouth and is very creamy and soft. It has that meringue chew to it but is not heavy at all.
Cassava Cake ($10 for full 8″ cake/$3.00 per slice) — grated cassava, coconut milk and sugar
The first time I had cassava cake was at a Filipino friend’s house. I loved it. I haven’t had it since, until now! This is great. It’s dense, and kind of chewy with a great coconut and cassava flavour. It’s not too sweet, which works well for those who prefer their desserts to not be overly rich in sweetness like NEWSTALK 1010 host Barb DiGiulio (she also hosts the audio companion pieces that are attached to the posts at the top!).
Turon (8 pieces for $3.00) — spring roll made of thinly sliced plantain rolled in raw sugar
This is basically a dessert lumpia. I love the melted sugar coating and the plantains are absolutely delicious.
Kanto by Tita Flips is something you should definitely check out if you’re in the Bathurst and Dundas area. Market 707 is a unique experience that should be a destination visit. It’s so cool to see what they’ve done with the converted shipping containers. The multicultural variety of restaurants there is pretty darn cool and having tried out a couple of the other restaurants (Souppe Shoppe and Gushi), I can say it’s quality stuff! It’s also in close vicinity to Kensington Market, so you could visit both on the same trip. In the summer I’ve been told they have the barbecue out, plenty of table space and umbrellas to shade you from the sun. I’m looking forward to future visits to Kanto to try more of their tasty dishes at great prices on a hot summer day!