Where chef Rudy Boquila gets to-go butter chicken, ramen and donairs

Where chef Rudy Boquila gets to-go butter chicken, ramen and donairs

We’re asking Toronto chefs and restaurateurs which takeout dishes have been getting them through the pandemic

Photo by Melissa Marques

More Takeout Diaries

Chef Rudy Boquila, the co-founder of Lamesa, can take a lot of the credit for bringing the exciting flavours of modern Filipino cuisine to downtown diners. (The Queen West restaurant shuttered in 2019, moving up to St. Clair West to share space with its then sister spot, Lasa.) Just before the pandemic hit, Boquila was working as head chef at Miss Thing’s Hawaiian in Parkdale. Since then, he’s continued making and selling delicious things (including bottles of his beloved hot sauce, available through his Instagram account) but now he has his sights on moving to Niagara-On-The-Lake next year with his family. Until he makes that move, Boquila will continue to support the Toronto restaurant industry by getting as much takeout as he can. “It’s primarily to give myself a break from cooking for my family, but also to support local businesses that are all struggling,” says Boquila. “And to satisfy cravings for places we love to eat at but can’t visit in person right now.” Here are a few of his favourite places to grab food to go.

Dil Se Indian Restaurant & Bar

335 Roncesvalles Ave., 416-532-4141, dilseindianrestaurant.org

“We’ve been wanting to try this restaurant since it opened mid-pandemic because we live in the area. We wanted to support local businesses and we were pleasantly surprised.”

Go-to dish 1: Butter chicken
Tasting notes: “It’s just done very well. It’s refined and everything you’d want in a butter chicken. The acidity is balanced with the cream, and the chicken is tender and moist.”

Go-to dish 2: Naan
Tasting notes: “It’s so fresh and has the perfect texture. It’s warm, crispy and chewy all at the same time. I could eat it this with just the butter chicken sauce alone.”

Go-to dish 3: Dal makhani
Tasting notes: “This is not your average dal. It’s so flavourful and buttery!” 

Ramen Isshin

421 College St., 416-367-4013, ramenisshin.com

“This is our favourite ramen place in the city, so naturally we were craving it during lockdown.”

Go-to dish 1: White sesame shio ramen
Tasting notes: “We love the rich, milky broth, the grind-them-yourself sesame seeds, the marinated soft-boiled egg and the perfectly al dente noodles. The travel time involved in getting it to go does not take anything away from the end result. It tastes the same as it would if you were dining in.”

Go-to dish 2: Roasted garlic shoyu ramen
Tasting notes: “I love garlic, so this one is a no-brainer.”

Go-to dish 3: Cha shu don
Tasting notes: “This satisfies my meat-and-rice cravings—and it’s very tasty.” 

Jessy’s Pizza

2200 Dundas St. W., 416-530-0999, jessyspizza.ca

According to his wife, Catherine Mangosing, this is Boquila’s guilty pleasure place. Before opening Lamesa in 2012, Boquila toured with Live Nation, cooking for bands including U2, Bon Jovi, AC/DC and Aerosmith. “Rudy fell in love with donairs while cooking for music festivals on the east coast. So discovering these donairs in the neighbourhood made him very excited.”

Go-to dish 1: Small beef donair
Tasting notes: “These donairs are exactly how Rudy remembers them tasting in Halifax. East coast donairs are crisped up donair meat in a grilled pita with onions, tomatoes and that donair sauce—a magical mix of condensed milk, vinegar and garlic.”

Go-to dish 2: Garlic fingers
Tasting notes: “It’s nostalgia captured in garlic bread sticks that you dip in that mouthwatering donair sauce.”

Go-to dish 3: Donair egg rolls
Tasting notes: “It’s an egg roll deep fried and filled with donair meat. Need I say more?!”