Chef Edgar Gutierrez showcases Filipino food and it’s accessibility at Kanto 98 St. Eatery.
There’s no shortage of Filipino restaurants in Edmonton. My first experience with the cuisine was in 2014 and I’m sad to say, my knowledge of it hasn’t expanded very much since then. The dinner did not wow me to the point of return and to be frank, I never found myself to crave any of the dishes I had tried.
“KANTO” MEANS “WHERE TWO STREETS MEET” OR “CORNER”.
Enter Kanto 98 St. Eatery four years later and, boy, has my outlook changed. The brainchild of Edgar Gutierrez, one of the owners and chef of Tres Carnales and Rostizado, I was excited to see his approach to Filipino food. Kanto is far from the “traditional” experience and it doesn’t claim to be authentic. It’s a showcase of Filipino flavours with the aim of accessibility and approachability. It’s street food, comfort food, and renditions of Edgar’s childhood favourites.
The tiny space seats a mere 16 but parking is abundant on the off-street of Edmonton’s Chinatown. Order at the counter and take a seat or take it to go and dine at home. Much like my previous Filipino dining experiences, the menu is meat-centric. Vegetarians and vegans, there’s not much here for you. Here’s an accumulation of all the dishes I’ve tried over the span of summer.
BBQ Pork Skewers Marinated, grilled & glazed skewers of pork loin. / BBQ Beef Skewers Marinated, grilled & glazed skewers of beef. / Liempo Marinated, grilled & sliced pork belly.
First up on the menu is BBQ meats. I have yet to order any of the skewers again since my first visit, but initial impressions included hefty portion sizes, a good char, and enhanced by spritzes of suka (Filipino vinegar) that comes with the utensil tray.
Now the only reason why I haven’t reordered the skewers is because of the Liempo. When cooking shows say “fat is flavour”, they’re talking about this pork belly. There’s no shortage of fat in this dish, which means for me, there’s no shortage of flavour. I’d also buy a bucket of that marinade if I could. It’s become a must-order for us, second only to Kanto’s spicy fried chicken. More on that later.
Attila D’hen Kanto’s fried chicken tossed in hot sauce with onions, sili & sesame. / Bao Boy Pork belly braised in soy and vinegar with fried garlic, pickled cucumber & green onion. / Karabao Braised beef with red pepper mayo, fried shallots, tomato puree, green onion and keso.
At opening in May, bao orders initially came in pairs, but quickly changed to three within a week after customer feedback. My favourite: the Attila D’hen, but then again I’m a fried chicken fiend when it comes to things. The orders itself are enough for a lunch, but I can’t help but order other dishes on the menu. I think it’s a great option to share if you’re going with a group!
Kanto Fried Chicken Mix of thighs & wings (original or spicy). / Garlic Fried Rice / Talangka Fried Rice crab fat fried rice / Spaghetti & Chicken Filipino style sweet spaghetti with 2pcs. chicken.
Kanto’s spicy fried chicken has become one of my favourites in the city because it’s right up my alley. The chicken is marinated, moderately coated in a batter, vacuum-sealed and frozen, then fried to a crisp. Depending on the day, you’ll get a mix of thighs and wings and sometimes just all wings. I prefer the wings, it’s easier to eat and you get sauce in all the crevices. And that’s the key here: their spicy hot sauce. It’s a perfect balance of spicy (quite mild for those who have low tolerance) and sweet. We always order the spicy fried chicken. It’s become a serious problem. But I don’t mind this kind of addiction.
LET’S OM NOM GO-TO: KANTO SPICY FRIED CHICKEN AND GARLIC OR TALANGKA FRIED RICE.
There’s only so much meat you can order without feeling the need to take a bite of something else. Enter Garlic Fried Rice or Talangka Fried Rice. Both are great options but the latter is my pick. Talangka is a small Asian shore crab. Crab fat, or tomalley, is the soft green or orange squishy goodness found in the body cavity of crabs, an ingredient I’m familiar with from the Vietnamese dish bún riêu. You won’t be overwhelmed with crab but there’s a depth to the simple rice dish that will make you wonder what’s in it to make it so wonderful. For a more pungent experience, get the garlic fried rice. Expect crispy and crunchy bits for a textural surprise, the dish aims to simulate the rice at the bottom of a rice cooker.
I don’t even know where to start with the Spaghetti & Chicken. It’s simple, comfort food. I’ve seen hordes line up at fast-food chain Jollibee for this sweet spaghetti and never really understood it. Now I do. Corned beef, sliced up hot dogs, cheddar cheese, all tossed in a sweeter tomato sauce. The secret to this Filipino-style pasta dish: banana ketchup, a condiment that resulted from a tomato ketchup shortage in WWIII and made up of mashed bananas, sugar, vinegar, and spices. It’s nostalgic for me, without ever having the dish before and that’s what I think all good food should make you feel. Warm and fuzzy on the inside? Yes, please.
The Taho dessert has since been taken off the menu, but here’s me hoping it will return one day as a feature item. Using fresh silken tofu from Edmonton’s tofu specialists, Ying Fat, it’s the Filipino version of soft tofu pudding, a dessert that has multiple renditions in almost all Asian cultures. Kanto’s taho uses caramelized palm sugar in their arnibal, topped with sago pearls and ube milk made from boiled and mashed purple yams. Available as hot or cold, it was the kind of dessert that could be had all year round.
For summer, I’m assuming the staple Filipino dessert takes precedence over all others: Halo Halo. It’s a mishmash of flavours and textures and not for everybody, but I love its bright colours and found Kanto’s version to work well. Ube and vanilla ice cream sit on top of a bed of shaved ice, coated in evaporated milk. Toppings include dulce de leche, white beans, corn, jackfruit, coconut shavings, and gulaman (agar jelly). Mixed together, as the name means in Tagalog, and you’ve got a melding of flavours and a treat to cool you down.
Kanto 98 St. Eatery has me returning time and time again, with flavours distinctive from others in the city. It’s casual and fun, comforting to the core, approachable, and somehow additive. Don’t ask me how it’s accomplished all of this in a short span of time, just go try for yourself. I’m always excited to return to see what’s new on the menu, whether it’s a short feature or an unknown new staple. I’ll meet you at this corner any day. (I’m serious.)
Kanto 98 St. Eatery
10636 98 Street NW