Kanto 98 St. Eatery
10636 98 St.
11 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week
Delivery: Skipthedishes.com and UberEATS
Food: 4 of 5 Suns
Ambience: 3 of 5 Suns
Service: 4 of 5 Suns
Dinner for two, excluding beverage and tip: Basic $22, loaded $45
By GRAHAM HICKS
It’s not that Chef Edgar Gutierrez hasn’t enough to do.
As the executive chef and partner in Tres Carnales and Rostizado, he oversees two highly successful kitchens.
The downtown Tres Carnales has been packed since it opened seven years ago. Rostizado, with its unique take on Mexican, Latino and South American cuisine, is fast becoming one of Edmonton’s top restaurants.
But within the success, Gutierrez always had a hankering to open a restaurant paying tribute to his Filipino heritage (he came to Canada from the Philippines in his pre-teens), at the same time applying his own style and influences on Filipino cooking – its love of sweet, sour, salty and bitter.
Kinda like the guitarist/singer in a very successful rock band doing a solo recording project on the side, Gutierrez has opened Kanto 98 St. Eatery.
“Everything’s running well at Tres Carnales and Rostizado,” says Edgar. “We have good teams in the kitchens. I’d been looking for the right place and circumstances to open my own Filipino restaurant. When I found this space (in Chinatown with spacious street parking on 98 Street), I was ready.”
Kanto is a fusion of cultural and culinary fun. The menu is full of inside puns and jokes for those who speak the Philippine language Tagalog.
Snap! Crackle! Pop! It’s small with simple, basic seating for 12 to 15 people. The decoration centres around the Filipino comic books of Edgar’s youth – bold, colourful DC/Marvel-like. A blown-up sepia photo of his mom from her youth greets customers at the door. She’s holding a rifle!
Gutierrez wanted to capture the feel of the kanto (street corner) of his Philippines youth, where small markets spring up on every corner, vendors sell grilled street food, and neighbourhood kids play games of chance.
Kanto’s food arrives in communal bowls for sharing and is designed for informal, quick eating. There’s constant turnover, with much take-out and delivery as well.
This is fun food. Gutierrez is taking Filipino dishes to places they’ve never been. The dishes may start with lola’s (grandmother) traditional recipes – sinigang, adobe chicken and so on. But it’s not where it ends up.
This is Gutierrez’s cheerful re-interpretation of tradition. We start with liempo (grilled pork belly, $13.50) and it is a beautiful thing: Marinated in something gently tangy, slightly smoked, delicately cooked, silky in the mouth, adorned with sesame and shallots – which you don’t see in traditional Filipino cooking.
The talangka, fried rice with soft-shell crab, is more conventional – the crab being basically smushed-up crab without the shell. It serves well as the rice base without which Filipino food cannot be served.
The kaldereta (braised beef) is truly a Gutierrez creation. The tasty beef slices have been braised in tomato, then topped off with a hot cheesy/mayo mix you’d never see back in Manila. It’s like an oriental mac ‘n’ cheese, but the flavours work!
The popular Hawaiian style poke (uncooked and diced tuna served ceviche-style) doesn’t show up in the Philippines – Filipinos like their fish cooked. Damn the torpedoes, Edgar has a delicious poke … which has been “Filipino-ized” with shredded, toasted coconut and coconut sauce, a pickle for tang, and passion fruit! Truly a “world culture” dish and as good a poke as you’ll find in town.
With 42,500 Filipinos in Edmonton and the cooking culture spreading to all Canadians, more and more good Filipino restaurants are showing up – Max’s, Tapsilog, Manila Grill Express, Panciteria, Summerside Grill, Turo Turo, Palabok House, Filistix – but I doubt any of them come close to Kanto for Filipino-based culinary adventure and simply good, exciting and interesting food