Dining with the romance of the past at Ilustrado

By Caroline J. Howard, ANC

Posted at Feb 13 2012 11:10 AM | Updated as of Feb 14 2012 02:48 AM

Valrhona chocolate tartlets, one of the desserts featured in Ilustrado's Valentine menu.

MANILA, Philippines - The walled city of Intramuros, built as a fortress during the Spanish colonial period, is one of Manila's most visited attractions today.

With its centuries-old churches and other structures, it's no wonder why it is an enduring part of the Philippine landscape and among the favorite venues for dates and weddings. One of the well-known restaurants here is Ilustrado at Calle Real, which has been luring diners with its refinement and sense of exclusivity.

Ilustrado serves Spanish-Filipino specialties such as paella, lengua and callos. Beatrice Amor Pimentel, the restaurant's general manager, said they take a look at old family recipes and favorites of Philippine heroes and presidents to enrich their menu.

"Some of the items are period recipes. The name Ilustrado refers to the educated class during the Spanish era, and anything from the favorite food of Rizal (national hero Jose Rizal) to what was the food of the mestizos and mestizas during that time, we serve here," Pimentel said.

"Ilustrado is a very ideal date place, a lot of people actually propose here," she added.

Pimentel then shared one of the most memorable wedding proposals that took place in the restaurant. 

"They (couple) walked through the trellised walkway lined with luminaries, towards their table in the middle of the garden while the quartet was playing. We thought the girl knew what was going to happen because it was an extra special treatment. But the guy didn't pop the question until they were about to leave. And the answer was yes," she said.

Valentine menu

In celebration of the day of hearts, Ilustrado is serving a special four-course Valentine set menu on February 14 at P1,900 per person. Diners at the restaurant's garden courtyard will be serenaded by a male soloist, with seats on a first come, first served basis.

The meal starts with fresh baked carrot and raisin rolls, followed by baked half shelled Aklan oysters trio (Parmigiano Reggiano and garlic, tomato and basil, champagne cream and caviar) for appetizer, and essence of duck consomme with duck foie gras and wild mushroom ravioli.

Entree choices include Wagyu sirloin with sauteed shiitake mushrooms, wilted spinach and marsala au jus; Australian lamb chops with roasted garlic, whipped potatoes and brown sauce balsamico; and king prawns and US scallops with asparagus tartare, soft poached quail eggs and cilantro soy-infused hollandaise.

The Wagyu sirloin is pan-fried, glazed with a red wine reduction and served with wilted spinach and potato au gratin. The meat is tender and succulent in itself, an invitation to eat to your heart's content.

For dessert, diners can choose between baked cheesecake with fresh strawberries dipped in Belgian chocolate or Valrhona chocolate tartlets. The meal also comes with coffee or tea.

"For our Valentine menu, you get your foie gras or truffles. You start out with oysters. They're known aphrodisiacs. You progress to a soup which is a consomme. We offer a sorbet to cleanse the palate before our main course. We have Wagyu beef or the lamb chops. We also have a prawn and scallop duo. My favorite course is dessert, we have an option [between] a cheesecake or a Valrhona chocolate tart," Pimentel said.

Ilustrado Restaurant is located at 744 Calle Real del Palacio, Intramuros, Manila. For more information, call (02) 527-2345 or 527-3674 or log on to http://www.ilustradorestaurant.com.ph.