If there’s one thing I fell in love with in Iloilo—besides my husband—it’s the food. There are so many good restaurants around, all specializing in different things, so the dining scene never gets boring. We have a go-to place for seafood, lechon, inasal, linutik (a kind of squash soup filled with seafood and other vegetables), Pancit Molo, La Paz Batchoy, siopao, and even different international cuisines—Korean, Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Italian, Mediterranean, you name it. I’ve done countless food lists about Iloilo for different publications including my own blog, and I intend to do more. A food tour was even part of our three-day wedding weekend activities (yes, it’s actually affordable to do this in Iloilo, where everything has to be wallet-friendly).
That said, when Richmonde Hotel Iloilo started hosting one-night-only degustation dinners featuring Ilonggo cuisine in a series called LaMeza Ilonggo, I was thrilled, to say the least. My husband and I both went, “It’s about time!” Richmonde Iloilo’s in-house restaurant The Granary is one of our go-to spots for all sorts of comfort food (Spaghetti Bolognese, Pan-seared Salmon, and Binagoongan are just a few of our many faves), so we trust in the capabilities of Richmonde Iloilo’s kitchen, helmed by Executive Chef Ariel Castañeda, under the leadership of General Manager Nat Lim.
Richmonde Iloilo has been working hard to put Ilonggo food first and at its finest in their LaMeza Ilonggo Open Seats degustation dinners. They always try to elevate the cuisine. So they planned to offer a special new degustation menu once a month, with an open seats setup—meaning, diners may reserve or simply walk in. The one we tried in September was a homage to Iloilo City: “Ciudad” celebrated Iloilo and its seven districts in a five-course tasting menu.
This is also the first time they offered a child her own degustation menu so she doesn’t get bored, and she enjoys it too. When we got the invitation to join “Ciudad,” I expressed that I might have to go alone since my husband will have to look after our toddler. But they willingly extended the invitation to our daughter, and GM Nat even asked me what her favorite dishes are so they can come up with a special menu for her. She actually got multiple courses, and Chef Ariel even explained each dish to her so she felt really involved. They gave her her own cute placemat made of recyclable plastic, and served her dishes on flatware made of wheat in a cute penguin design. She was so behaved and absolutely loved it! I’m so happy and grateful they did that for her, and I wish more restaurants would do the same.
The LaMeza Ilonggo scheduled for tonight, October 30, is “Bukid,” an 11-course vegetarian degustation special open seats dinner for solo diners and small groups who wish to enjoy special heritage dishes on a modern table, from 6PM to 10PM at The Granary. Just like the one last September, rates are P3,800 net per person, but if you have a group of 10 or more, they have a special rate of P3,500 net per person. There’s reportedly another one for November, so watch this page for details soon.
LaMeza Ilonggo “Ciudad” 5-course tasting menu
Before we were served our first course, we were served a mocktail called Apple Fizz, made with sparkling apple juice sweetened with green apple syrup and sugar rim, finished with a sampaguita gummy bear that the bartender of BizBar made himself, as part of Megaworld Hotels and Resorts’ Sampaguita campaign (read more about it here). It’s not too sweet, definitely festive-looking, and the refreshing taste of apple is definitely there.
I love how they offered us wine on the house to enhance our dining experience (this offer varies per menu, however). They started with white wine for the first few courses, and then they served red with the meat dish.
1st course: Lapuz
Lapus-lapus: egg krathong, ubod mousse, smoked shrimp tartare, rock sugar pearls, garlic chips, mesclun lettuce
The dish, a deconstructed interpretation of fresh lumpiang ubod, is meant to look like a river or passageway. To enjoy, scrape off the smoked shrimp tartare on the side and put it on top of the pretty egg krathong. It tastes sweet on the palate. I loved the unique presentation, familiar flavors, and fresh seafood taste from the shrimp tartare. I wish they would add this to The Granary’s regular menu.
2nd course: Three bites for three districts
Molo – Fishball: grilled fish, sea prawns, roasted squash puree, kalkag dust, chicharon, squash veil
This bite is insipired by Molo’s famous Jo-ann’s fishballs—a must-try when in Molo—wrapped in thick linutik (squash pureed for two hours). You can really taste the delicious linutik combined with the taste of fresh prawns. I enjoyed the savory bite from the chicharon crumbs. This is my husband’s favorite—which makes sense because linutik is one of his all-time favorite Ilonggo dishes.
City Proper - Inasal Tacos: Ilonggo chicken inasal, Ilonggo inasal barbecue sauce, sinanglag taco shell, pickled vegetables, soy pearls, blistered leeks, calamansi aioli
This is their version of the Ilonggo chicken inasal in one bite. It’s a mouthful, though, and while I tried to get it all in one bite, I had to finish it in two. I was so impressed with how innovative this dish was! The unique garlic rice taco shell is super interesting and delicious.
Villa – Lechon Lumpia: lechon skin shards, dehydrated sambag leaf and leek cylinder, lechon pate, sinamak caviar, blistered green onions
The Villa Arevalo district is known for its lechon—in fact, the lechon we served during our destination wedding in Iloilo was from a popular restaurant in Villa called Breakthrough. The Richmonde team captured the specialty in this bite (which I had to finish in two bites), complete with a lechon pate made of a mix of lechon sauce and an actual piece of crispy lechon skin on top. It’s so yummy—definitely one of my favorites that night.
Dumplings & Tea: Molo consomme, Molo xiao long bao served on pandesal crostini, spring onion foam on top
This is basically your Pancit Molo with tea. They deconstructed the traditional Pancit Molo soup, with the dumpling separated from the Molo broth. To enjoy, sip the Molo consomme (soup) after each bite of the xiao long bao to get the full experience. I loved the flavorful Molo broth—it’s not too salty and had a perfect savory taste. Again, it was no surprise that this was one of my favorites that night because Pancit Molo is actually one of my favorite Ilonggo dishes. Good thing we can find the Molo Xiao Long Bao at The Granary’s regular a la carte menu.
3rd course: La Paz
Batchoy: Blanched meke, shrimp paste and black pepper oil, liver, katsuobushi, grilled pork knuckles, spring onion foam
Chef Ariel and GM Nat admitted it was a challenge to have a version of La Paz Batchoy in their tasting menu because everyone already has their favorite and how they do it. This is their tempered version. To make it fresh and new, they used tsukemen ramen noodles. The thin noodles worked for me, as it helped to highlight the broth. I really found the batchoy broth delicious, with such a rich, savory flavor from the katsuobushi on top. I didn’t get overwhelmed by the ingredients like liver and pork knuckles (which I sometimes do when I go to the popular batchoyans, that’s why I often just get the simplest one) because of how it was presented in the dish. Of course, it was served with homemade puto—as it should!—that was soft and slightly sweet.
Palate cleanser: Guimaras
Homemade Jelly made with Guimaras-grown fruits (Guimaras dragonfruit, Oton watermelon)
They served this before the heavier dish, although it’s not your usual gelato and popsicle palate cleanser. Instead, they used light-tasting sugar-based gelatin, which doesn’t distract from the fresh taste of the fruits.
4th course (meat): Mandurriao
Kansi-linaga: 48-hour sous vide short ribs, bone marrow-langka mousse, libas oil, annatto batuan gravy, chili shards, rice crispies
They turned the kansi-linaga into a main course instead of the usual soup you would expect it to be. The compote butter is actually made of langka and bone marrow—you can really taste the bone marrow in the mousse. I loved how tender the meat was, but what I loved were the chili shards that gave the dish subtle heat and texture.
At this point, apart from the red wine, they served us another mocktail made of soda water, freshly picked lemon, mint, and a hint of vanilla as a palate cleanser before dessert. It was super refreshing, especially with the crushed ice.
5th course: Jaro
Pasalubong: Coconut custard bibingka, coconut sorbet, pinasugbo sauce, barquillos
The items that make up this dessert are representative of the pasalubong highlights of Jaro. The fluffy and light-tasting bibingka is their own homemade version, topped with the unique execution of pinasugbo as sauce that captured the flavor in this twist. I especially loved the queso de bola as garnish as it balanced out the sweetness of the dessert. It was rounded out by the light coconut sorbet taste with a bit of texture from the barquillos bits.
If you noticed, it’s supposed to be just a five-course dinner but we got so much more out of it. Truly worth the price tag!
LaMeza Ilonggo special degustation for our daughter
Of course I also sampled what our daughter had for her own degustation. I really wish Richmonde—and other restaurants—would continue to offer this for kids, so parents wouldn’t feel guilty about taking them when they want to enjoy a long degustation dinner.
1st course: Skinny Fries
House-made BBQ seasoning, shoestring potatoes
The fries are not too salty, it’s well and evenly seasoned. My daughter nom-nomed it all and fast!
2nd course: Manicotti
Meatball sauce, house-made manicotti pasta, potato puree
It’s pasta with meatballs and mashed potatoes in one dish—all her faves! It was definitely a hit. The potato puree/mashed potatoes were really creamy, and Richmonde consistently makes rich and flavorful bolognese sauce.
3rd course: Chicken X Pancake
Maple butter, fillet of chicken, pancake souffle
Our daughter finished the pancake, it was so fluffy and creamy. The chicken was flavorful, savory, nicely breaded, and had crispy skin. They put the maple butter on top of the chicken, giving it only a hint of sweetness.
Palate cleanser: Jelly made with Guimaras-grown fruits
This jelly was the same as what we were served as a palate cleanser. Our daughter loved the taste because she loves jelly and fruits, but what she was particularly drawn to was the bold fuchsia color.
4th course: The Ice Cream
It came with three scoops in different flavors: banana ice cream topped with bread crumbs, coconut sorbet, and sampaguita sorbetes sprinkled with rice crispies—finished off with Chantilly cream and dollops of caramel. She enjoyed the banana flavored one the most, while my favorite is the sampaguita ice cream, which is also part of Megaworld Hotels and Resorts’ Sampaguita campaign. It was so good and aromatic. The light taste of the coconut sorbet did remind me of the buko sherbet my lolo used to make for the holidays.
They also gave her grape shake (her favorite) and a cup of sampaguita gummy bears
If you want to experience LaMeza Ilonggo, book one or two of the limited seats available for the degustation dinner tonight by calling (033) 328 7888.
Monstrous deals for long weekends
If you happen to decide to spend the extended weekend break in Iloilo for some culture and cuisine, Richmonde Hotel Iloilo has an amazing offer for the entire family and barkada. From now up to November 7, 2023, you can book a room for as low as PHP4,800 nett (room only) and PHP5,300 nett (with breakfast buffet for two). Rates are valid for a maximum of two adults and two children 5 years old and below, and include Wi-Fi access and use of the hotel’s gym and outdoor pool.
For inquiries and reservations, call Richmonde Iloilo’s Room Reservations at +6333 328 7888 or +63 917 580 9642 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For online bookings, log on to richmondehoteliloilo.com.ph.