Ilustrado

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Going out on dates isn’t exactly cheap, having dinner in a fine dining isn’t exactly cheap or something I normally do. But considering that Tricia and I will be celebrating our first year together means that I have to step up my game. We both love to eat, we’ve gone to a lot of places and eaten our fair share of interesting food. This year alone we have slid into a comfy dining experience, not too fancy and not too cheap, somewhere in-between where we don’t really have to worry about pronouncing the food in the menu. But for this weekend, I didn’t want to slide into that zone of having a great dining experience, I wanted to dress up and see a menu with the words aperitif, starters, and entrees written on it. I wanted to have a complicated table setup, complete with the many types of spoons and expensive cutlery. I wanted this but still be practical and affordable, thus, I looked no further than my good friend Deal Grocer for such a place. What I found was an inexpensive deal right smack in the place where Tricia and I would enjoy, Ilustrado in Intramuros, Manila.

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The Paella Ilustrado
For quite some time, Deal Grocer had a deal for the famous paellas of Ilustrado. Since our anniversary was coming up and we were planning on trying the bamboo bike tour in Intramuros on that day, the deal was a perfect match to our plans. So, after having spent two and a half hours biking, we were quite famished and itching to replace all the calories and water weight we had burned.

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Seafood and meats plus all the flavors you can imagine
We arrived promptly at 6 pm and were quite literally the first diners in the restaurant. We were promptly seated in the main dining room and offered the menu for their paella and other meals, Tricia and I chose the classic Paella Ilustrado and an order of their bagnet with KBL. It was a good thing that we arrived at 6pm, since the paella takes about 30 minutes to prepare and when it did arrived, our order of bagnet came with it.

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The bagnet with KBL (kamatis, bagoong and lasuna)
The Paella Ilustrado is restaurant’s classic signature dish, everything about it looks like the traditional Spanish dish filled with bountiful flavors and aromas. The deep orange color, the arrangement of seafood, meats and vegetables were mouthwatering. We didn’t want to wait a second longer and just dug in; along the way the mix of vegetables, meats and seafood was tantalizingly good. Every scoop of the paella was full and filling that our extra order of steamed rice was overkill. Besides our paella we also had the bagnet with KBL sauce as an extra order. Ilustrado’s bagnet was a disappointment compared to the rich flavor of the paella. It lacked flavor and despite adding a little bit of the KBL sauce onto the pork, didn’t do much to improve its flavor.

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Needs a little more flavor, but the eggplant was a nice touch
After our delightful dinner, Tricia and I shuffled next door to the restaurant’s café for a small snack to bring home. Though they were closed, the chef there was generous to offer us a free scoop of sampaguita ice cream while I ordered a pack of coconut oatmeal cookies. The sampaguita flavored ice cream had a very unique rosy and earthy flavor that needs some getting used to. But their coconut oatmeal cookies were delicious, generous with the coconut and a lot of textures that play in the mouth.

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Too rosy for my taste, this free scoop of sampaguita ice cream helped the palate
*Side note
Since this was our first time eating in a fine dining restaurant, we were really excited and hoped that the staff would be courteous and welcoming to us. In fact they all were, except for the lone female waiting staff last night who treated us coldly and wasn’t quite welcoming with us. She really didn’t make us feel as though we were welcome in Ilustrado and did not bother to guide or give suggestions and recommendations in the menu. This experience was the only disappointing part of our whole dining experience, I know Tricia and I rarely go out to such places, but I hope that at least one of person in the waiting staff didn’t have to make us feel so insecure about ourselves. 
Ilustrado is located at 744 Calle Real del Palacio (General Luna), Intramuros, Manila. 
Their contact numbers are (02) 527-3674 and 0922-8234981 and 0939-9206822
Their email address is dine@ilustradorestaurant.com.ph
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