Food evolving – from truck to table

Filistix, one of the city’s first food trucks that turned into an on-campus food spot, is a new downtown restaurant, co-founded by Ariel del Rosario and Roel Cañafranca. We spoke with del Rosario to find out what brought Filistix to 100 Avenue and 106 Street.

It’s that hospitality quotient. Food is first and foremost at Filistix. Everything is meant to be shared family style, which is unique, not unique to Asian restaurants, but unique to crossover-type restaurants. Everybody shares. Big serving spoons. You get a big plate of fried rice and everybody shares and tastes.

It was two years ago that we started thinking about opening an off-campus site. The criteria for us choosing a spot was, we had to have [density]. The government district had that density. The area is starting to become more developed. I think in the next year or two, all of those buildings will be occupied or populated and it’s just going to bring more vibrancy to the area.

Initially, our idea was to do strictly Filipino street food, hence the name Fili for Filipino and Stix for skewers, meat on a stick. And that’s the quintessential Filipino-style street food. On every corner you see these little old ladies doing grilled skewers like satay in Malaysia or Indonesia. The inspiration came from that, but as circumstances changed, like us opening up on campus, we really had to evolve our menu so that it wasn’t just Filipino street food.

We had to tweak our recipes so they weren’t super traditional, so they were a little familiar. Even the presentation had to be a little more familiar. We want to introduce our version of our food. We’ve never claimed to be authentic in any way. We want to bridge the gap to people who don’t necessarily know what southeast Asian food really is. We want them to come in and feel the atmosphere and get a little glimpse of the culture.

We want to educate a little bit, introduce a little bit, where people come in and have good food, get drinks and enjoy the atmosphere in a super, super nicely designed space. We have cinderblocks and wood and plants and this really cool tiling on our ceiling that gives a sense that you’re not in Edmonton.

Creating Canadian Cuisine

The Butternut Tree, at 110 Street and 97 Avenue, at the edge of Oliver, is chef Scott Downey’s attempt to answer that most difficult question in Canada: what’s ours cuisine. We caught up with Downey and, in his own words, he told us about his restaurant.

I just want to provoke the question of ‘What’s Canadian food?’ What’s the flavour of Canada and how are we as a country, as a group of people, going to give an identity to that? The whole goal is just being able to share everything that we learn all the way along and tell people exactly where to get it.

photo: William Frost

It’s not like I got this special ingredient and I want to hide it and nobody else is going to be able to have it anymore. That’s the complete opposite of what we want to do. Once we have that, we say exactly who we got it from, where we got it from, when you can get it, and I think that’s just the big thing – the sharing of knowledge.

I ended up looking at about 130 spots through all of downtown … and finally, when I came to this spot, I knew immediately. The big part was the location and the view. When I walked in here and just saw this giant park, the river valley, we have the streetcar that goes across and then also being Canadian, we have the legislature, it was just this perfect fit.

This type of mentality that you can have a dinner as your night … I want to build a restaurant that was around that philosophy. I want you to come in, spend the night with us, let us take care of you. Drink some wine, eat some food and relax and actually enjoy your whole night here.

We want to be fine dining in our quality of service. We want to be fine dining in the quality of our food, but I want it to be like you’re coming and having dinner at my house. If you come in, I just want to welcome you, take care of you and make sure that you’re having a good time and that you’re comfortable.

– Interview by Miranda Herchen