Lines were already beginning to form at Lasita when we arrived. In part this is down to the huge goodwill engendered by its former iteration, Lasa, which, during its time was considered one of the best Filipino restaurants in Los Angeles. And in part it’s because in the short while Lasita has been open, it’s already become popular in its own right—albeit a work in progress.
The chefs have sensibly based their menu around two popular Filipino food staples, the chicken inasal (rotisserie chicken, marinated in spices, calamansi juice and annatto for the signature coloring) and pork belly lechon (the dish by which most Filipino restaurants are judged). These are available à la carte in whole or half sizes, and by the plate with suitable accompaniments of rice, pickles, garlic mojo and a sauce of soy and calamansi juice.
Coming from someone who has been fed a lot of 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 crunchy as any crunchaholic could ask for. A pound of lechon served like a rolled porchetta with some of the 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, while the perfect color (from the annatto) and with a gloriously tangy skin from the marinade, had dried out underneath its covering. Also, the chicken fat rice that supported it on the plate had none of the schmaltzy goodness I was anticipating. It was by no means a poor plate, but compared to the lechon…
Alongside these, we ordered side dishes of eggplant drizzled in a garlic-miso aioli, an iceberg lettuce wedge coated in a coconut green goddess dressing, and pancit (noodles) tossed with kangkong (water spinach). Of these, it was the iceberg wedge that was the most successful (I could order the green goddess dressing by the bucket full).
The dessert list featured excellent local purveyors and we (or to be honest I) tore through an excellent calamansi cream pie (available only on Saturday and Sunday) from the excellent Laroolou Bakery, who have a small stall in the mall outside. I am all for restaurants supporting other local businesses, particularly when the result is as delightful as this pie.
As I said, Lasita is very much a work in progress and my three-star review is as much to reflect its current limited ambitions as it is some of the minor disappointments of the meal we definitely enjoyed on the whole. I am sure that in the next few months as I come back, it will become just as popular as Lasa.
The vibe: The sunny atmosphere of the décor of Lasita, when added to the genuinely lovely nature of the staff, reminded me of sitting at a beach bar in Palawan. The booths are my favorite seating option, but there are tables outside and two-tops for couples.
The food: The food menu at Lasita is limited, so I would order family style: a pound or more of lechon, a whole inasal chicken, plenty of garlic rice, a few of the iceberg wedge salads, those stunning pickles and a range of sauces—you’ll likely be a happy camper.
The drinks: The drink menu consists of natural wines, which are also available at very good prices to go. If wines with “character” don’t suit the bill, I am always tempted to try one of their short but excellent series of ciders and beers. A Gigil rice pilsner from Trustworthy Brewing was just right with my choices.
Time Out tip: While there is plenty at Lasita to fill you up for a single meal, part of me knows that it would form a great part of a walking tour of a meal around Chinatown, or even just within Far East Plaza, bookended by dumplings at Mason’s and perhaps another dessert from Laroolou Bakery in the same mall.