10621 100 Ave.
7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. (11 p.m. Fri and Sat, 9 p.m. Sun), seven days a week
Delivery pending, reservations by phone
Food: 4 of 5 Suns
Ambience: 3.5 of 5 Suns
Service: 4 of 5 Suns
Dinner for two: Excluding drinks and tip, basic $30, loaded $50
By GRAHAM HICKS
Ariel del Rosario and Roel Canafrance had no grandiose business plan when they started selling Filipino-style BBQ skewers out of a food truck some 10 years ago.
Yet Filistix has evolved as a textbook study in growing a hospitality business, culminating in the recent opening of its first sit-down, full-service Filipino/Asian fusion restaurant in the city’s downtown.
Del Rosario and Canafrance are cousins – second-generation Filipino-Canadians raised on the excellent Filipino cooking forever emerging from their moms’ and lolas’ (grandmothers) kitchens.
They were among the first to join Edmonton’s food-truck movement. The name “Filistix” combined “Filipino” and “stix”, reflecting the food truck’s BBQ skewer specials.
“Our first truck was close to a Fat Franks’ cart,” recalls Ariel. “He had big line-ups and we had none. We started offering a few other items to stay alive.”
Filistix struggled until it was “discovered”, so to speak, at Sharon Yeo and Mack Male’s What The Truck food-truck festivals. Out of the What the Truck exposure, Filistix ended up as a fixture in University of Alberta food courts, then opened a quick-food Filistix outlet in MacEwan University.
Ariel and Roel’s dream, however, was still to be realized. They wanted a sit-down, full-service restaurant specializing in southeast Asian cuisine – specifically contemporary Indonesian and Filipino cooking.
When the new downtown location became available, close to the Matrix Hotel, Filistix bid adieu to MacEwan. The brand-new, modern, contemporary location, with its unique southeast Asian offerings, opened a few short weeks ago.
It’s a new restaurant, yet Filistix is a proven concept with a built-in audience. A few thousand U of A/McEwan grads who knew and loved the Filistix “brand” from their university days now live/work close to the new location.
The two culinary entrepreneurs are excellent, self-trained chefs, with imagination, adventure, and a shrewd understanding of the tastes and food needs of today’s young professional Edmontonians, equally comfortable with adobo or rendang as with a late-night A&W Beyond Meat burger.
Filistix (downtown, the U of A outlet remains open with a simpler, takeaway menu) is impressive all the way around.
The décor is simple, classy and versatile. Customers can be in-and-out in 20 minutes, slurping down a noodle dish, or settle in for two-or-three hours of eating with friends, picking numerous dishes from a carefully crafted Asian-fusion menu of small plates, inexpensive BBQ “stix”, a noodle/rice selection, and some of the most interesting entrees in the city.
Prices are good. A five-dish dinner for two, with a Filipino-style Caesar salad, pork-belly kabob, nasi goren fried rice, sambal-marinated quarter-chicken and a Filipino ginataan dessert (coconut, vanilla, candied veggies) totaled $50, with enough leftovers to take care of lunch the next day.
The Filistix Caesar salad is built around the usual quick-grilled head of romaine lettuce, but the capers and anchovies are replaced by a Filipino fermented spicy shrimp paste and dressed with crispy, yummy bits of pork fat. The meat skewers come with three beautiful sauces, Indonesian peanut, sambal kecap (Indonesian style spicy tomato sauce) and Filipino chili/vinegar.
Presentations are attractive and clean. Our BBQ “stix” were neatly as a neatly cut rectangle of skewered pork belly. A variety of big-bowl Indonesian/Filipino noodle/rice dishes – Bagoong (shrimp based), pancit canton, nasi goreng – are tasty, flavourful, inexpensive meals unto themselves.
Our only minor disappointment was the actual meat in the sambal roasted quarter-chicken. The sauces and marinates were excellent, the chicken leg well-roasted. But the meat itself was tough and unpleasantly chewy.
Filistix is truly a leader in “next-gen” cooking – mixing and playing and presenting the flavour-packed cuisine of their come-from-away youth with the rather bland mainstream … and with the food they shared with their friends from their parents’ ethnic kitchens.
The new Canadian mainstream is becoming a riot of flavours and tastes and sauces from India, Philippines, Thailand, Latin America, he Caribbean and China. In the traditional new-comer neighbourhoods of north-central Edmonton is emerging African cooking.
Filistix is leading the pack. May it be joined by many more!