After I have found myself enchanted with the culture and scenery the walled city of Intramuros has to offer, it was my taste buds' turn to immerse in the rich history of our beloved country thru an Inaugural Feast at one of the most notable Filipino-Spanish dining destinations in the heart of Manila -- Ilustrado Restaurant.
Tucked along the street of General Luna inside Intramuros is Ilustrado Restaurant which was inspired by the educated and well-travelled Filipinos who were tagged as the enlightened elite class back in the Spanish occupation days. And today as we celebrate our well-earned liberation from the Spaniards, Ilustrado brings us a culinary tribute to commemorate one of the most significant milestones of the country.
Having played a big role in the establishment of the first Philippine Republic, it's just fitting to pay homage to the Malolos Convention of 1898. And to bring us back to the abundant feast of the inauguration, Ilustrado Restaurant has partnered with Malolos-based artist, historian and food expert Dez Bautista to put together an Inaugural Feast highlighting the Malolos heritage cuisine which will be available from May 29 to June 30.
The Inaugural Feast consists of a special menu of traditionally-rich Spanish-Filipino dishes which guests can enjoy in the cozy and sophisticated space of Ilustrado's wooden main dining room both for lunch and dinner. Luckily for myself and the date, we got to attend the media launch of this cultural treat which was held in the beautiful neo-classic-inspired Singatala Ballroom which boasted of its hand-painted dome ceiling and carved gold leaf arches.
Although the ravishing interior of Ilustrado is already a feast in itself, we didn't hold our appetite for these highly-enticing Spanish-Filipino gastronomic creations.
To whet our appetite, we sampled a few pieces of the Lumpiang Kastila (P210) which was a delightful mix of meat and vegetables rolled in wrapper and deep-fried to a beautiful crisp.
There was also a bountiful display of Hamonadong Sugpo (P420) which is an eye-catching succulent seafood treat glazed with a thick blend of sweet sauce. Even with seafood allergies, I got myself this prawn appetizer aplenty.
We also got to try the Merienda de Prayle (P320) which is an indulgent appetizer made from kesong puti (white cheese) and kinilaw na bangus (milkfish ceviche). Although I didn't go gaga for this meal starter, I actually liked the savory and tangy flavors of this friar-favorite.
Challenging my allergies is another seafood appetizer -- Stuffed Squid Supreme (P395) which is also called Binusog na Pusit. Cooked to a perfect tender, these beautiful squids are stuffed with pork and an array of ingredients made available with the Suez Canal opening in 1869.
For a warm and comforting follow-up after an exciting and appetite-whetting start, Ilustrado cooked up two hearty soup creations which hit and missed.
Being a seafood lover amidst my dreadful condition, I found the Malolos Chowder (P250) really satisfying. With a thick and flavorful broth and a generous ensemble of fresh seafood and Japanese corn, my bowl of this treat was definitely a winner!
The Sinuuwam na Mais (P220) on the other hand, didn't win me at any rate. Although I like the creaminess of this soup, the blend of local white corn, eggplant and string beans was a little too dull for my palate. I guess I'm just not a big fan of our own corn.
The Main Course
I know it seemed that we've already eaten a lot. But after all the meal starters we went through, the real Inaugural Feast was just about to begin.
Known as a favorite of Pedro Paterno, the Apahap de Paterno (P850) is also called Pescado en Mayonesa which is steamed Asian sea bass artistically adorned with chopped vegetables. Although I liked the blend of natural flavors in this dish, I found the fish slightly overcooked.
We also got to try the Rellenong Manok ni Joseling (P1,450) which is a deboned whole chicken stuffed with spiced ground pork. Being a big fan of anything relleno, I quite liked the savory and succulent flavors of both the chicken and the pork stuffing.
One of the most memorable dishes for our lunch was Hamon de Hacienda (P320) which only hacienderos (sugar barons) get to enjoy back in the day. Prepared through hard work where pork belly is mixed with Prague powder for 3 days, rinsed and boiled with pineapple juice in the 3rd day, with drippings set aside for its sauce, I'm sure glad Ilustrado decided to include this for the Inaugural Feast.
Following suit is another equally satisfying dish, the Pata Malolena (P795) or Humba. Slowly-boiled to ensure tenderness, these braised pork legs were soft and very succulent. With flavored banana flowers on the side, this ensemble left us wanting for more.
We also had Morcon Plaridel (P550) which is a favorite of Marcelo H. del Pilar. Rolled with Chorizo de Bilbao and an array of assorted vegetables, these beef tenderloin slices were cooked to a juicy and flavorful main entrée.
For some carbs, we had Bringheng Malolos (P995) which is a pre-Hispanic version of the crowd-pleaser paella. Cooked in turmeric and coconut milk, and topped with chicken meat, carrots, eggs and raisins, this was a filling meal in itself though I'd still prefer paella any day.
|My first plate at the Inaugural Feast|
The Inauguration Feast at Ilustrado was already satisfying in itself, but the whole meal was even taken up a notch because of the unique and refreshing drinks we paired with the dishes.
One of the must-try beverages at Ilustrado is probably its Pandan Tea which tasted light, sweet and oh-so-refreshing. It was aromatic too and reminded me strongly of sugarcane. We also got to sample the Dalandan Juice. While it's equally refreshing on a hot day, it's a bit too tangy to drink bottom up.
After all the flavorful dishes we had for main course, it's just appropriate to have equally taste bud-satisfying meal enders. So although we were already getting full, we didn't dare miss out on these sweet treats.
First on the desserts table was Loretto's Leche Flan con Manga (P140) which is leche flan made from the sweetest ripe Philippine mangoes. Being a mango lover, I definitely dig this sweet dessert. However, I just wish that the texture be more silky 'cause I find it too lumpy.
We also had sweet and tangy Señorita Guava (P175) which is caramelized pitted bayabas Tagalog served with fresh carabao's milk. For more meal enders, we also had a rainbow-layered kakanin and Malolos' Empanadas de Kaliskis.
Although a mainstay in Ilustrado's desserts menu, the good folks at the restaurant invited us to try their home-made Sampaguita Ice Cream (P120) as we chill in the Kuatro Kantos Bar -- Ilustrado's dim-lighted bar and cafe in one. While the beau didn't appreciate the distinct Jasmine flavor, I found myself enjoying the ambrosial taste of our Philippine national flower.
Even though I have frequented Intramuros, it was my first time to try the gustatory delights at Ilustrado Restaurant. And despite my Chinese-Filipino roots, I can proudly say that I've enjoyed the Inaugural Feast that didn't only take my palate to a wonderful culinary adventure, but also gave me a flavorful taste of the past. Truly, Malolos is not just a faraway city in the northern province, but a site full of significant history and yummy eats.
Ambiance - 4.5/5
Service - 4/5
Price - 3/5
Overall Value - 4/5
Ilustrado Restaurant, Intramuros
744 Calle Real del Palacio (General Luna St.),
Metro Manila, Philippines