A great night at a restaurant can sometimes take a little time to develop. Drinks need to be ordered, the waitstaff has to get through their rehearsed bits–all while you and your table try to silently suss out what kind of meal this is going to be.
At Lasita, there is no such wind-up. Because from the second you walk into this Filipino spot in Chinatown–and clock the big tables of friends drinking funky orange wine together and feasting on whole chicken–you realize this is a party, and you’re already deep into the fun.
Now, if you’re reading this and wondering why Lasita sounds familiar, you aren’t losing it (probably). This colorful rotisserie/wine bar is technically the second iteration of Lasa, the slightly more formal Filipino concept that had occupied the same Far East Plaza space since 2017. It was quite popular and we included it in our Best New Restaurants of 2017, but after the relentless ups and downs of 2020, owner Chase Valencia decided it was time to change things up.
Words like “pared down” and “simplified” can sometimes feel negative in describing a restaurant, but when we use it in regards to Lasita, it’s the opposite. Sure, the menu is smaller now (it’s essentially just chicken inasal, pork belly lechon, and a handful of sides) and all ordering is done at the front counter instead of via traditional table service, but in streamlining its own process, Lasita has created an experience freed from traditional structure. Dinner here is highlighted by interesting, communal-style dishes that taste incredible, a joyous lack of having to make decisions (or reservations), and a deep respect for the art of hanging out as long as you want.
It’s also a place where no two meals will ever be the same. Want to order a few bottles of biodynamic wine with friends first and put in some food later? Go right ahead. Dining solo and low on time? Head right to the counter and get your chicken plate in 15 minutes. Maybe you’re on a date that’s going better than expected and neither of you want to leave. Feel free to add and revise your order at any cadence you see fit. At Lasita, the only rule is there are no rules. And those are always the best kind of parties.
This is the main event at Lasita and whether you’re with friends, roommates, lovers, or by yourself, make sure it hits your table. Their version of this rotisserie dish is stuffed with lemongrass and garlic, making it sweet and citrusy with a slight acidic bite at the end. We’d say you don’t even need the vinegar-based garlic mojo or the spicy salsita made with fermented birds-eye chilies that come on the side, but you actually do - they take the already tremendous flavors of the chicken and shoot steroids into them. There is no such thing as too many sauces here.
Filled with spinach, oyster mushrooms, and thin, slightly chewy yakisoba noodles in a garlic-calamansi sauce, this dish is surprisingly light and a great way to break up the meat parade that is currently directed at your table. If you’re by yourself, it’s definitely substantial enough to be its own entree.
Speaking of meat parade, make sure this dish is a part of it. The rolled pork belly has been brined, stuffed, and marinated with lemongrass, onions, and ginger. Its aromatic sweetness balances out the pungentness of the meat perfectly, and the crispy skin provides just the right amount of crackliness.
This dense pork belly behemoth is exactly what we want on days when we need something to keep us toasty. Served on a thick, crusty Bub and Grandma’s ciabatta loaf, thick cubes of crispy pork lechon are topped with charred scallions, cilantro salsa verde, red onions, and a tangy calamansi vin stew. Sure, it’s not as effective at solving our cold-related woes as a heated blanket or actually wearing a thick enough jacket, but it sure does taste better than those options.
Disclaimer: This dessert is only served Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. We’re not saying that means you have to come here on the weekends, but we’re also not not. Citrusy calamansi custard, which has hints of lemon, lime, and orange, layered on a butter graham cracker crust and topped with a salty whipped cream - this is one of our favorite new desserts in the city.