Ilustrado Restaurant in Intramuros

When I think of Intramuros, I think of the words “nostalgia”, “time travel”, “Spanish rule”, “historical”. This proved unerringly true when I arrived in the City of Manila to visit Ilustrado Restaurant in Intramuros.

Ilustrado - Signage Facing the Street

Ilustrado – Signage Facing the Street

Also known as the Walled City, Intramuros is the oldest district in the Philippine capital. It was once the seat of government during the Spanish conquest from 1521. The Spanish rule lasted for more than 300 years.

Intramuros - Manila Cathedral

Intramuros – Manila Cathedral

Thus, there was a strong influence in the country not only on customs, language, architecture and our given names, but also on…you guessed it – FOOD!

The restaurant’s appellation is not coincidental to sound Spanish. Ilustrado’s manager Beatrice recalls, “There was a brainstorming session with a few close friends and business consultants. The names – peninsulares, insulares, burgis, indio were brought up.”

But none seemed right until someone interjected, “Ilustrado!” It means “the enlightened”, “well traveled”, “intellectual” and was used during the 19th century in the Spanish reign. In 1989, Ilustrado opened its doors offering an array of Spanish-Filipino cuisine.

Ilustrado - Menu

Ilustrado – Menu

Before we checked out the menu, I took advantage of surveying the place. It was just 10:30 AM when we arrived. Ilustrado was hosting a wedding reception that day. Capiz windows were evident, reminiscent of Spanish heritage and in keeping with the theme of the restaurant.

Ilustrado Wedding Prep

Ilustrado Wedding Prep

Its indoor ballroom can accommodate up to 1,050 guests, I’ve been told. Ilustrado caters to up to 150 weddings a year. Thanks to their excellent food (which I will get to later), vast indoor and outdoor venues and proximity to landmark churches in Intramuros.

Intramuros - San Agustin Church

Intramuros – San Agustin Church

Intramuros - Inside Manila Cathedral

Intramuros – Inside Manila Cathedral

If a couple favours an intimate garden wedding, Ilustrado takes care of the setup. Their garden seats up to 300 guests.

Ilustrado - courtyard and well

Ilustrado – courtyard and well

Ilustrado Courtyard - Fountain

Ilustrado Courtyard – Fountain

As these guests start to arrive it becomes apparent the newly weds would be blessed with a sunny day despite the country’s unpredictable weather this time of year. I just wanted to take a little peek at the guests and the couple, as I was ready for lunch. My tummy was in sync with my “voyeurism,” and allowed me a little time to watch the happy event.

Ilustrado - Main Entrance

Ilustrado – Main Entrance

The entrance announced the names of the bride and groom right beside the restaurant’s signage. A few steps inside I noticed Ilustrado’s staff had decorated the stairway to the Sinagtala Ballroom with flowers.

You can see I had an unexpected model in the “photo op”. A little boy eager to see the bride suddenly appeared in the frame just as I pressed the shutter button.

Ilustrado - Stairs to the Ballroom

Ilustrado – Stairs to the Ballroom

A few minutes later, the bride and groom happily arrived with no signs of nerves. They were raring to meet their guests.

Ilustrado - Bride and groom

Ilustrado – Bride and groom

And that was my cue! There was certainly no gatecrash happening from my end. I came here for lunch. I have heard friends raving about Ilustrado’s cuisine. I needed to satisfy my curiosity and my hunger.

We were led to the main dining room where the Spanish touch was more evident.

Ilustrado - Wine Display

Ilustrado – Wine Display

There was a great variety of dish on the menu but we opted to go for the signature dishes. With Spanish-Filipino in mind, I envisaged paella, callos, adobo. This calls for a, “Buen Provecho!” (Spanish for Enjoy your meal or lunch) or “Kain na!” (Filipino for Come, let’s eat).

The friendly and approachable chef of Ilustrado, Chef Bernice, volunteered to serve our food with a bit of history and trivia about each dish. What a pleasant chef!

Ilustrado - Fresh Green Mango Shake

Ilustrado – Fresh Green Mango Shake

Ilustrado - Fresh Yellow Mango Shake

Bells rang in my head at the mention of fresh green and mango shakes. I am deeply attached to fresh Philippine mangoes – green or yellow.  Modesty aside, they say these are the best mangoes in the world. I think the same, too. Needless to say, we ordered both. They were fresh, ice cold and had the natural taste of mangoes.

The next best mango shake I had was in Boracay. But that’s another travel story to tell ;).

Paella Ilustrado

Paella Ilustrado

Ilustrado’s take on Paella was generosity at work. In anticipation in helping diners decide whether to order seafood or meat, they decided to throw in both meat and seafood into their flavourful paella. I had nothing more to ask. This is the Paella taste that I know and expect.  This Paella used saffron and annatto oil. Annatto oil is locally known as atchuete.

Ilustrado - Adobong Bagnet

Ilustrado – Adobong Bagnet

Next was the Adobong Bagnet. Bagnet seems to be a trending hashtag in my reviews (lol!). People just love the crisp and crunch of the pork done a la bagnet in as many viands as possible. Adobo has been the Philippine National Dish for several years. It is a staple in every home and eateries nationwide.

The basic adobo is chunks of pork (or chicken, or both) cooked in soy sauce and vinegar with bay leaf and black pepper. But Ilustrado rendered it in their own distinctive way.

They had a tagline for this menu item – “Please be careful with my heart”. Deep fried pork cooked adobo-style with the addition of crab fat paste or taba ng talangka. It was then that I made sense of the tag line.

Cholesterol aside, I thought that this adobo was  very good. I still had the original adobo flavour, enhanced by the crab fat.

Ilustrado Specialty - Callos

Ilustrado Specialty – Callos

The Callos Madrilena got me smitten. I imagine the chef’s hands carefully measuring every spice, slow cooking the ox tripe and placing the garbanzos, chorizo and bell peppers with such accurate timing. The ox tripe had melt-in-your-mouth properties yet leaving some non-resistant chewiness to enjoy the gelatinous goodness of the beef. The flavours blended extremely well with the crunchiness of the bell peppers.

Honestly, this was an awesome dish that set my standard for Callos, our next dish.

Ilustrado - Main Dining

Ilustrado – Main Dining

“A glass of water, please”, I had to ask the waitstaff. With the feast we were already having, my drink was just as good. I managed to finish the fruit shake and dish without water. By this time, my partner consumed the adobo while I polished off the callos. The paella was halfway through.

Ilustrado - Table setup

Ilustrado – Table setup

In came two desserts – the cheesecake and the Sampaguita Ice Cream. Sampaguita is our National Flower. It is most commonly seen sold in churches in the form of garlands. Chef Bernice and I agreed we do not know of any other restaurant using the flower in ice cream. Chef Bernice shared that their method is to painstakingly pick each tiny flower from the stem. She calls this a “labour of love”.

I found myself spooning as she spoke. The first spoonful was indescribably amazing. Vanilla ice cream with the flavours of sampaguita was just a remarkable experience. It was as if I smelled and tasted the flower at the same time. It was so good my partner and I took turns in exact proportions . We scored each spooning with “mmmms”.

Ilustrado Specialty Dessert - Sampaguita Ice Cream

Ilustrado Specialty Dessert – Sampaguita Ice Cream

At the sight of the cheesecake, I thought I would pass out. I knew I already had the star dessert for the day. My insatiable partner was more curious seeing a nice white and clean-looking cheesecake. In one second I just heard another set of “mmmms”. To my partner, “mmmm” is an impeccable equivalent of this-is-so-good-I-won’t-stop.. (and I may not share!). I straightened up and waited no further. I took my fork and dug in! I can compare this treat to a Macbook Air.

This dessert embodied simplicity at its finest. Simple with the right amount of sweetness and creaminess. I’ve been had by intricately styled desserts before that let down my palate. This simple looking dessert did not fail me.

Ilustrado Dessert - Cheesecake

Ilustrado Dessert – Cheesecake

Eyes feasted and tummy filled, we thanked Chef Bernice for such a warm welcome. We knew we would be dining again at Ilustrado.

Ilustrado - Back and Outside

Ilustrado – Back and Outside

LOL… but it would also take a long time to burn the calories we gained from the splendid Ilustrado lunch. I initiated a walk to do some sightseeing in Intramuros. I glanced back at the restaurant. It took a huge heart to start this business in 1989 and still make it to this day. With the food and great service they provide, their success is small wonder.

Ilustrado - across Silahis Arts and Artifacts

Ilustrado – across Silahis Arts and Artifacts

Intramuros - Sightseeing Silahis

Intramuros – Sightseeing Silahis

When you visit Manila, you definitely must stop by Ilustrado and stroll around Intramuros. Right across the restaurant is an art and artifact shop known as Silahis.

Intramuros - Sightseeing 2

Intramuros – Sightseeing 2

To me, Ilustrado and Intramuros seem to be complementary. Though incomparable to Intramuros in the number of years, Ilustrado as a fine dining restaurant is celebrating its 25th year next month. Both Ilustrado and Intramuros are aimed towards preservation of the rich heritage of the country.

I mentioned musing about Intramuros seems to take me back in time. Once again, it just did.

Gourmet Getaways Giveaway

Now, it’s time for a GG giveaway. We want you to experience Ilustrado Restaurant in Intramuros, Manila. Gourmet Getaways and Ilustrado are looking to give two lucky winners P500 gift certificate each.

All you need to do is complete the form below after liking, sharing or following our social media pages. Don’t forget to leave a comment to this post, too. You earn extra entries!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The first two (2) winners of P500 voucher each are:

1. Pau pau A
2. Kimberly T
Plus, three (3) bonus winners:
3. Tonyo C
4. Franz D
5. Melody C

Gourmet Getaways dined as guests of Ilustrado Restaurant. The opinions contained in this review are written without bias and in accordance with Gourmet Getaways’ disclosure policy.

Ilustrado Restaurant in Intramuros

# 744 General Luna St.
Intramuros Manila, 1002
Tel nos. +632 5273674/ +632 5272345
Mobile nos. +63922 8234981/ +63922 8234983/ +63939 9206822 

Gourmet Getaways

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  1. I am one of those silly girl that love the glitz and glamour of a wedding. I love how you stole a sneak shot of the bride to a random’s wedding, that something I would do! And why not – her dress was gorgeous!

  2. I think I might quite fancy some delicious cheesecake after a visit of all of the beautiful churches and cathedrals in Manila. Did you enjoy some traditional Philippine’s cuisine while you were there ?

  3. My favorite Thai dish is Thai Spiced Noodles. 🙂
    but for ilustrado, I would love to try their cheesecake.

  4. The facade of Ilustrado Restaurant is like a tour from history 🙂 I am really eager to taste the Sampaguita Ice cream and the green mango shake yummy!

  5. Such a nice place! We can see the spanish influence every where even in the food! Paella, callos…Did you know that the callos is a typical recipe from Madrid? Have a nice weekend Julie 😉

  6. Well, the Ilustrado restaurant certainly is well suited for the “well-traveled” Julie. And what a gorgeous setting for any bride and groom – with tons of family and friends and deep pockets =) Love that shot of the little boy peeking out…And wish I could get a big scoop of that flower ice cream alongside the cheesecake!

    P.s. Please be assured that I have diligently reciprocated every visit you’ve made to my site.

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  8. Of the food seen above, I would absolutely love to try is the Callos. This is a favorite of mine since I was young. It reminds me of the pleasant and cozy life back in Bacolod as my mom used to cook this for me. Win or lose this giveaway, I will certainly try this dish soon.

  9. Ilustrado Restaurant:

    I won’t forget this restaurant for the rest of my life! You may ask why? This is where i proposedback in 2011 to my then gf, my wife now. All the staff here helped make my proposal more smooth, and have a happy ending. They have an amazing dessert, and it was prepared if front of us, it was an amazing experience. The food are a premium quality at a reasonable price. The place is very elegant and has a good ambiance. Very good place for proposals, and anniversary celebrations. I’m looking forward in spending our second wedding anniversary at Ilustrado. Thanks so much for the memories.

  10. Ilustrado Restaurant:

    I won’t forget this restaurant for the rest of my life! You may ask why? This is where i proposedback in 2011 to my then gf, my wife now. All the staff here helped make my proposal more smooth, and have a happy ending. They have an amazing dessert, and it was prepared if front of us, it was an amazing experience. The food are a premium quality at a reasonable price. The place is very elegant and has a good ambiance. Very good place for proposals, and anniversary celebrations. I’m looking forward in spending our second wedding anniversary at Ilustrado. Thanks so much for the memories.

  11. I would like to try everything in this restaurant like seriously! 🙂 As I looked he pictures, the courses are mouth-watering I like to try them!

  12. i would love to try their sampaguita ice cream! I want to go there with my Fiancee. What a romantic dinner date for us. Hoping to win cause next month will be our anniversary, our birthdays and we’re expecting a baby next month 🙂

  13. I would love to experience the ambiance of the place. And the way you described the cheesecake, I am sooo curious to try it.

  14. I would like to try the Callos also the cheesecake! Looks Yummy! Gosh Im hungry!
    Thanks for this amazing giveaway!

  15. Hi Ilustrado! I’ve been so many times inside Intramuros especially when I’m going to National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and what keeps on catching my attention is the sign board ILUSTRADO in front of Silahis Antique shop. From the name itself I think this is not just an ordinary restaurant but a world-class one. When I read your blog, I was so amazed to see what’s inside it and what you offer. I wanted to go there and experience the ambiance inside the restaurant, plus, to taste the one-of-a-kind special menus available to your customers. The Adobong Bagnet looks delicious and I think it’s not the usual adobo taste. The stairs going to ballroom is so princess-like moment. I wanted to take a photo there if given a chance win this contest. Looking forward to be at Ilustrado one of this days! GOD BLESS ILUSTRADO!

  16. My boyfriend and I loves to chill out in Cafe Ilustrado SM Makati (while waiting for the line in MRT to lessen). We love your cake slices <3 Wish we could visit the restaurant in Intramuros.

  17. Nice ambiance and place I want to bring my hubby here for our 10th wedding anniv and I like to try all the food especially the Adobong Bagnet and sampaguita icecream oh well..looks so yummy

  18. Just by looking at the pictures of dishes from Ilustrado Restaurant, really makes me crave for some all-time Filipino favorites!
    I want to taste the mouth-watering goodness of their Paella & Callos and satisfy my hunger pangs with the Adobong Bagnet! Since I’m a health buff, I also want their appetizer “Baked Eggplant in Feta Cheese and one of the house specialties “Salmon Head Sinigang sa Miso”! To complete my meal, the beverage and the dessert should never be forgotten…I’ve never known that there’s a Sampaguita Ice Cream! Wow, that will be my first time if ever, to have a taste of a flower-flavored sweet treat if I’ll visit the restaurant soon! My favorite fruit is mango, so I’ll surely enjoy the cold drinks offered there! To give pleasure to my sweet tooth, I’ll also take a bite of the cheesecake – ohhhh it’s gonna be a heavenly experience!
    Truly, if I’ll win in this giveaway, I’m going to share the blessings to my family by inviting them to eat out at this Prestigious Restaurant in town! And in return, I’ll invite my friends to dine and enjoy the relaxing ambiance of this dining haven!

  19. I’ve only been to Intramuros once for a school project (that I aced!) , And once is never enough for a place that holds so much history, so much art, and fascinating adventures just waiting to be seen and experienced. I wasnt able to see Ilustradobut I have heard from friends studying in Mapua that it is quite a fine place. I’m hoping to check it out soon and try the food you mentioned! Hopefully, i’ll be able to save if I win your contest. Nonetheless, it looks promising, and I’ll be glad to blog and post about it on my upcoming website, and my temporary Instagram 🙂 thank you Gourmet Getaways and more power!

  20. I love to try the Callos at Illustrado. The description is and how it looks is inviting. I wonder how adobo tastes like with crab fat. Errr I love crab fat!

    • As a housewife, i know it’s difficult to cook callos perfectly. I’d like to try the callos from ilustrado, and try to ‘copy’ it for my husband.

  21. Pingback: Conti's Bakeshop and Restaurant - Gourmet Getaways

  22. I’d like to try all the delicious foods in their menu of course! And experience their excellence service.. I also wanna try to take a picture of me at the Ilustrado restaurant. It would be great if that happens. 🙂

  23. I want to try Ilustrado Specialty Dessert – Sampaguita Ice Cream! My first time to hear that kind of dessert! wow!!!

  24. good read!

    Sure would love to try Ilustrado’s food and revisit Intramuros! make me win and let that happen so I can treat my wife out and finally unwind and rekindle our love! 🙂

  25. I want to win because I want to experience dining in a historical place! I’ve never been here before! Hope I’ll win! 🙂

  26. I love Filipino Food! I want to try this restaurant but it’s way too far from Mandaluyong. Maybe If I get a little incentive, like the giveaway, lol, I can allot extra effort to reach the place. Plus, the Adobong Bagnet and Green Mango Shake looks divine!

  27. Back in medical school, Ilustrado restaurant was just a few steps away from PLM but I never got the chance to dine there. If I win your giveaway, I’d surely give their Paella a try. Looks enticing to me. 🙂