The month of June ushers in not only the start of the wet season and the school year but it’s also the month to celebrate patriotism especially on June 12, which commemorates the declaration of Philippine independence from Spain in 1898. That same year, the Constitutional Convention or the Malolos Convention was signed, which played a pivotal role in creating the First Philippine Republic.
Ilustrado, an iconic restaurant located in the walled city of Intramuros in Manila serves up delicious history in the form of festive dishes to celebrate the 114th year of our Philippine Independence. The restaurant is recreating the elaborate menu served during the inaugural dinner of the First Republic in Malolos, Bulacan. A classic tourist destination, Intramuros is rich with European architecture including its old houses (that have now been turned into shops and offices) and churches like the Manila Cathedral and San Agustin Church, which is very near Ilustrado. The restaurant itself is an architectural marvel with its Spanish colonial structure and Old-World feel.
Ilustrado Restaurant was founded by Boni Pimental and his late wife Rose in the ’80s. They envisioned the place as a culinary and cultural destination, presenting only the best from the country’s rich Spanish-Filipino heritage. Ilustrado refers to the well-travelled and cultured Filipinos during the Spanish colonial era.
For the ongoing food festival, Boni and daughter Bea Pimentel, who is also the establishment’s GM, have collaborated with Malolos-based artist, historian, and food expert Dez Bautista to put together an Independence Day banquet. Bautista, who comes from the distinguished Bautista clan that owns the famous Bautista ancestral house (built in 1855) in Bulacan, shared his knowledge and trained Ilustrado’s culinary team to ensure the quality and authenticity of the dishes to be served.
Till June 30, 2012, Ilustrado Restaurant celebrates Philippine Independence with “The Inaugural Feast: A Malolos Heritage Cuisine.” On the menu and served a la carte—better come as a group—are festive dishes like Chicken Relleno, Beef Morcon, Apahap Royale, Pata Humba, Binuog na Pusit (stuffed squid), and Hamonadong Sugpo, in which the shrimps have been marinated with the ham for many days and slowly baked to get its sweet and juicy flavor.
Not to be missed, too, are the Leche Flan con Mangga, Pastillas with Dayap, Sapin-Sapin (layers of glutinous rice cakes), and the Senyorita Guava, which is deseeded small quavas that are boiled and filled with carabao’s milk in its center. It’s a surprisingly refreshing dessert!
In the metro, where new restaurant hubs are briskly sprouting, Ilustrado Restaurant has retained its loyal followers—families who have celebrated their milestones and Filipinos who have come home from abroad and are pining for excellent Filipino cuisine—even gaining a younger generation of foodies. Thanks to the Pimentels—Boni for ensuring that the rich history of Philippine cuisine continues to be showcased in the restaurant, and Bea for infusing fresh touches—no Filipiniana costumes here but well-designed uniforms—and creative food presentations.
Says Bea: “We do try to keep a fresh attitude and keep ourselves updated with trends and find out which ones we could apply to the restaurant. That way, we also get the younger generation to appreciate our rich Spanish-Filipino cuisine. We try our best to keep a high standard when it comes to the quality of our food and service. Just because we’re an old establishment—23 years in the business—doesn’t mean it has to be old in its feel, too.”
Outside of the walled city, new chef-driven restaurants are gravitating towards Filipino fusion. But back here in Ilustrado, diners are finding out that it’s still nice to make time for solid, heritage dishes and let time momentarily stand still in the company of family and friends. Bea is right, old can still be exciting after all.
• Ilustrado is located at 744 General Luna st. Intramuros, Manila. Open on Mondays through Saturdays for lunch (11:30am-2:30pm) and dinner (6 pm-10 pm); its Kuatro Kantos Bar and Café is open daily from 8 am-6pm. For more information or reservations, call (+632) 527-2345, (+632) 527-3674, (+ 63) 922-823-4981 to 83 or e-mail email@example.com. For the full menu, visit www.ilustradorestaurant.com.ph.