Philippine cuisine is moving into mainstream North America. At long last, expatriates like me who decades ago emigrated from the mother land can now vivify precious childhood memories via the deliciously soul-warming complex aroma of a well-prepared and creatively presented Filipino meal.
The restaurant business being highly competitive, it is necessary that the Filipino chef create and execute that fragile balance of authenticity whilst presenting an irresistible appeal to the Western palate. This seems to be happening in the last few years. (For example, see the 2018 New York Times feature entitled “Filipino Food Finds a Place in the American Mainstream”)
Canada has large communities of expatriate Filipinos in its major cities such as Vancouver and Toronto. A quick internet search confirms that Filipino-styled restaurants abound in these aforementioned cities. In contrast, the Filipino community in Montreal is significantly smaller, numbers barely over 10% of that in Toronto. Thus, Philippine cuisine if it is to make an impact in Montreal must create dishes that will appeal to the Montréalaises/Montréalais be they of Filipino ethnicity or otherwise.
A close friend, a foodie, a non-Filipino, recommended that we try Beck’s Cuisine Philippine located in the suburbs west of Montreal. We were not disappointed. We loved it immediately.
My wife and I enjoy international cuisine. Visiting many countries within the last decade, we are convinced that a particular style of cooking is best enjoyed in its native setting. Thus, Venetian food in Venice, Tuscan cuisine in Tuscany, Peking Duck in Beijing, Filipino food in the Philippines, etc. This bias has kept us away from dining in Filipino restaurants in Montreal, afraid that what we might see/smell/taste would be far removed from what we expect. This said, a close friend, a foodie, a non-Filipino, recommended that we try Beck’s Cuisine Philippine located in the suburbs west of Montreal. My friend had been raving over a quintessentially Filipino signature dish listed in Beck’s regular menu, “crispy pata.” We were not disappointed. Beck’s version was to perfection: crispy skin, gelatinous tendons, tender meat. Finally: a Filipino-styled restaurant serving food as close as we remember it from the motherland. We returned a couple of more times to sample the other menu offerings and we have always come away impressed. We intend to return and dine some more, perhaps bring the rest of the family over.
Beck’s is a family business. The owner is Rebecca, hence the name “Beck’s.” She hails from the province of Pampanga north of Manila Philippines. To me, this may be significant: Pampanga claims to be the culinary capital of the Philippines. The late Anthony Bourdain once did a show on the food in this province, spending an evening with Claude Tayag, chef and owner of Bale Dutung.
Rebecca’s daughter Vanessa manages the restaurant. She has certification in food hygiene and safety. Added to this, Vanessa has created a family ambience, adding to the overall pleasure of dining. One is made to feel among friends. She explained: “it is our priority to ensure that our place is satisfactorily clean and the staff are at their best to ensure that each of our guests is being served as a family member.”
Rebecca’s son Jay is master of the kitchen having graduated from the St. Pius X Culinary Institute in Montreal. He says of himself: “proud to be pinoy (Filipino) and spreading our culture with our very own menu. It is a challenge for me to enhance our dishes with fresh ingredients to satisfy and meet (the expectations) of our guests’ palate.”
In the end, everything centers on Rebecca whose dream was to establish a Filipino restaurant. She creates and standardizes the recipes. In her words, Beck’s mission statement: “Beck’s Resto is a family business that offers dine-in, takeaway and catering service specializing in Filipino dishes and sweets. We would like to offer you our warm welcoming service with our original and home-made recipes. We aim to be fast, affordable and delicious Filipino food restaurant here in the West Island!”
My wife and I are glad we heeded my friend’s recommendation. We are happy that Beck’s offers well-prepared Filipino food served in the friendliest of ways all in a family-type atmosphere. Beck’s has been operating for a little over a year. Here’s praying that this gem of a restaurant will continue to thrive.