Eating Out: Filipino-inspired platters at Comber's Lasa
IT'S hard to beat a good platter. Not just when there's greediness to be satisfied, but when indecisiveness needs fed as well.
My strategy when it comes to choosing from a menu varies depending on the terrain.
If the reputation of a dish goes before it, then there's a good chance it'll be ordered to see what the fuss is about. Similarly, if there's something I've never tried before, I'll invariably order it.
While there's some degree of risk in that, I can think of very few ingredients that I'll regret ordering to the point that it won't get eaten. Greediness to the rescue again.
The problem comes when a head-to-head (and maybe head-to-head-to-head-to-head) decision has to be made. Menu choices – and I understand this could take pride of place in the First World Problems Hall of Fame – are a nightmare, as this puritan farce of a society looks down on an honest man ordering three or four starters or main courses at once.
When this happens, I let the pressure decide, convincing myself that when it comes to the crunch and I'm asked the big question, whatever I blurt out will reveal what I really, really want. I remain unconvinced.
So, a good old platter that boasts a wee bit of an awful lot can be a lifesaver in a place where the menu just looks a bit too good. Lasa in Comber is a place like that.
Calamansi fried chicken? And the rump steak? And the turkey spring rolls? And the, and the, and the...
Originally planned to be a takeaway, husband and wife team Conor and Elizabeth Brennan opened their bright, cosy, buzzing tribute to the food of Elizabeth's native Philippines in October 2020.
Since then, they have popped up in various places, including at Common Market's excellent food space in Belfast city centre, and plan to spread their wings further and spread the word about what Filipino food has to offer.
Part of that is those platters, or 'boodle', a communal feast central to the country's cuisine.
At Lasa, a selection of vegetable, meat or seafood dishes comes to test the structural integrity of the tables and range between £17 per person and £23.
There was an offer on the shimmering summer night we went as the sun streamed through the windows, with the meat option £17 a head, making it the best value meal I can remember for an awfully long time.
So, travelling round the platter like it was the prize board at the end of Bullseye, we had: rump steak in a sharp, sweet, soy sauce, skewers of barbecue chicken, vegetables in curry sauce, turkey and potato spring rolls, pickled veg, grilled aubergine, pak choi and pineapple, and, right in the middle, Bully's special prize, criminally moreish garlic fried rice. Oh, and just about the best fried chicken you'll ever have.
There's a lot – standard starters and mains can be ordered too – but the chance to test the variety is too good to pass up. And anyway, the regret that comes with not ordering a boodle then seeing one brought to table after table must be crushing. I wouldn't know.
Everything is good, though some things are better than others. The thread running through it all is the sparkling freshness of the flavours. The prevalence of calamansi, a hybrid Filipino citrus fruit, lifts everything, especially that fried chicken, to give it a brilliantly sour edge unlike anything else in the genre.
The place itself is small, so booking ahead is advisable, and it's bring your own, so plan for that if you fancy a drink: though their non-alcoholic concoctions – more calamansi in one, mango and tamarind puree in another – are seriously good.
There's no choice to be made for dessert, as there's no ube cheesecake, no great tragedy as I've always found the bright purple yam a victory of style over substance.
So, it's one deep fried treat each. Both the turon (banana and jackfruit wrapped 'spring rolls') and the carioca (sticky little rice and coconut donuts) come with a moody miso caramel sauce. While entirely delicious, they're a bit of a struggle – but that's only because of the generosity that's gone before.
Maybe if I'd been able to make a decision it wouldn't have ended up like this. But where's the fun in that?
:: THE BILL
Unit 2 Bridge Street Link
028 9122 5590
- Meat boodle x2 £34
- Turon £5
- Carioca £5
- Calamansi Cooler £5
- Mango Bagyo £5
- Total: £54