Quiet Dinner at Ilustrado

My brother graduated at the SM Mall of Asia, because his school is owned by tycoon Henry Sy. (Their tuition can be converted to SM Advantage Points, for real.)

While my parents and said brother were locked away in an IMAX theater, watching the graduation ceremony in 3D, my littlest brother and I binged on fatty food like hotdogs, popcorn and buckets of french fries.

Cooling down after circumnavigating the entire mall, we hung out at The Dive Bar, an ice cream parlor that serves pricey gourmet treats. Observe:

Classic Sundae – P120
The banana bits and nuts are mixed in with the scoop of ice cream. It’s finished off with a dollop of whipped cream and a cherry.
Mango Cocktail – P225
Thick, sweet mango slices at the bottom, vanilla ice cream with crushed pumpernickel, whipped cream and mango sauce.

The Dive Bar also serves this pretty cool ice cream dimsum (10 pieces for P700 plus). Basically, it’s small scoops of ice cream inside a filo pastry dumpling, served with hot chocolate sauce. And you eat it with chopsticks, it’s so cool. But I have yet to try that.After the graduation ceremony, we checked out the buffet at Sofitel, a 5-star hotel in Manila, but we were put on a waiting list.

We considered having dinner at the upstairs cafe (just to give you an idea of the price range, quiches cost P300 plus), but my brother didn’t like the menu list, so we left. The place seemed cool, though. Look at this bread ornament:

I’d like to eat that big one on the right, shaped like a leaf. That would last me days!

My Dad then brought us to Ilustrado, a restaurant in Intramuros housed in one of those old Spanish compounds with arched stone driveways and big wooden houses sporting capiz shell windows. Inside are genteel dining areas.
The tip is to go there on weekends if you want it quiet, or go there on weekdays when it’s filled with government executives who work nearby if you want it noisy.

Surprisingly, though the restaurant has a definite Spanish colonial-era feel, its menu isn’t confined to just Spanish food. They borrow cuisine from their colonial successors, the Americans.

Here’s the food we got:

Caesar Salad – P320

Lightly tossed salad greens with slices of parmesan and a piece of buttered toast with bacon on it. This was yummy! You can eat this with the plates of bread they serve you prior to the meal, with duck pate and butter.

Seared U.S. Beef Tenderloin, Gorgonzola Cheese and Pumpkin Seed Salad
with Kahlua-Cabernet Sauce – P340

This was a winner. The sauce tasted like it was all the juices from the seared steak. The meat was soft and well seasoned. Bits of tangy Gorgonzola cheese added a bit of a kick to the dish. Perfect!

Baked Eggplant in Filo Pastry with black olives and feta cheese – P395

Got this one. The pastry, made like a giant shark’s fin dumpling filled with the eggplant-olives-and-cheese mixture, comes with tomato and pesto sauce. Though good on the first few bites (tastes like pureed eggplant parmigiana), nakakasuya in the end.

Paella Ilustrado – P750

A house specialty, it’s distinctly more flavorful than the other paellas I’ve tried. The rice is slightly crunchy and buttery, the rest of the ingredients (eggs, shellfish, shrimps, squid, chicken, chorizo, bell peppers and peas) are divine. Loved it.

Barbecued U.S. Baby Back Ribs with Grilled Vegetables (for two) – P950

Better get this to share, because it’s huge. The one you see in the picture is just half of the entire dish. According to my brothers, the ribs are “all right.”For dessert, you can pick from a selection of cakes and pastries. As usual, I voted for us to share a creme brulee, which in this restaurant tastes like leche flan. Delicious.

All in all, a great meal for a great day.

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