Solig at Bem’s. Tony Forchetta
9711 107 Avenue
If you travel over to 9711 – 107 Avenue across from Lee House, you’ll find the neighbourhood’s newest Filipino Restaurant – Bem’s.
Bem is the nickname of Bem Bem, the three year old daughter of Red Seal Chef and Owner Dondon Miranda. For anyone who’s been to Southeast Asia and walked into a small neighbourhood restaurant, you’ll immediately feel at home. With simple, friendly décor, the smells waft from the kitchen and the family owners are there to welcome you. For a while, you may even feel part of the family.
Neither my wife nor I have had the benefit of travelling to the Philippines (yet). So, while we can’t claim to be experts on this culture’s cuisine, we do know good and we do know quality. With empty stomachs and open hearts we begin and ask our host, “What do we eat?” She graciously explains a few dishes, many of which are simple, single-plate meals and run the spectrum of typical Filipino favourites. The menu also features a selection of appetizers and sides.
My wife orders Beef Kare-Kare, a stew-like dish reminiscent of a Thai curry. It is made with peanut and has a flavour close to satay without the spicy overtones. It is laden with beef and oxtail, served with rice and steamed fresh baby bok-choy. There are three Kare-Kare on the menu – beef, seafood, and crispy pork.
I order a Solig, which from what I learn appears to be a good breakfast standard with a mound of garlic rice and fried egg on top. Mine is served with Filipino Style BBQ pork and vegetables. There is a range of Silog available with a variety of pork, chicken, beef, and salted fish. How can you go wrong? Our host brings us each a small cup of beef and pork broth to start, topped with a few chopped scallions. First taste – delicious. The entrees arrive shortly after. They are hot and generous portions – overall very good value and quality. Our host offers suggestions on how to top the dishes to enhance the flavour with roasted garlic, chopped peanut, soy sauce, or fish sauce (a condiment found throughout Southeast Asia made from salted and fermented fish).
I break the egg and let the yolk run through the rice while grabbing a piece of BBQ pork on my fork. Amazing. My wife and I swap forks and sample each other’s meals – we’re both impressed. To wash it all down we each got a canned coconut water beverage. This was an excellent choice to complement our meals. At the time of our visit they did not appear to have a liquor license.
I can barely manage to clear my plate, but what’s dinner without a little sweet treat? My wife had gelatine of fruit juice and young coconut which was delicious, while I had a Leche Flan – think a denser Crème Caramel.
Dinner for two with a non-alcoholic drink and dessert ran us about $50 including tip. The service and atmosphere was genuine and Chef Dondon came out to enthusiastically thank us and ask for our feedback. As we got up to leave, even Bem Bem walked us to the door and waved good night, making it really feel we’d just been to their house for dinner.
Bem’s is open from 12-8 p.m. Tuesday- Saturday. There is ample street parking most days and a short stroll from anywhere in McCauley.
Tony lives in McCauley.