FOOD TRIP: Exploring Iloilo’s Best Food Spots

Exploring Iloilo’s Best Food Spots
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On our second day of stay in Iloilo, at around 9 am, we decided to go grab some brunch at the Breakthrough restaurant. But before we went there, we first took a quick stop at a street-side bibingka cart in Villa Arevalo to taste their freshly cooked Bingka – a local rice cake cooked in a makeshift oven.

Iloilo Bibingka
Iloilo Bibingka
Bibingka Vendor in Iloilo
Bibingka Vendor in Iloilo
Fresly baked Bibingka in Villa Arevalo
Fresly baked Bibingka in Villa Arevalo

However, that stop was more than just a food-tasting activity; to me, it was more like a cultural immersion and I loved every bit of an experience there was in it.

Breakthrough Restaurant
Breakthrough Restaurant
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Breakthrough is a seaside seafood restaurant and a tourist spot at the same time. It’s a must-visit place for people who want to sample Ilonggo delicacies and fresh seafood. For appetizer, we tried their lumpiang hubad. For the main dish, we had ensalada nga puso, sinugba nga managat, pangat, grilled bihod, sizzling crabmeat, grilled oyster, and ginataang hito. Lastly, to tame our sweet tooth, we tried their buko halo-halo–their own version of halo-halo served inside a coconut shell.

Day 2: A Culinary Showdown

After having that sumptuous lunch at Breakthrough, we then went to Robinson’s Place Pavia for the Let’s Cook with Nora Daza Cooking Competition. Four teams from different culinary schools joined. Each participant was required to cook an appetizer, a main course, and a dessert. Each dish needed to be inspired by the recipes from Chef Nora Daza’s updated cookbook.

Nora Daza Cooking Competition in Robinsons Place Pavia
Nora Daza Cooking Competition in Robinsons Place Pavia
Nora Daza Cooking Competition in Iloilo City
Nora Daza Cooking Competition in Iloilo City
Let's Cook with Nora Cooking Competition
Let’s Cook with Nora Cooking Competition

Each team was given a total of two hours to prepare three recipes from scratch. I was thrilled to witness them use the ingredients, apply cooking techniques with finesse, and get to the final plating of their dishes. While all the recipes were taken from the Nora Daza recipe book, the participants made some changes during the cook-off and somehow made it their own. And what they did impress me more.

Cooking Competition Participants
Cooking Competition Participants

The participants prepared mouthwatering food like meatloaf, lapu-lapu relleno, pollo ala naranja, and chicken relleno for main course; onion quiche, gazpacho, kilawing librillo at labanos, pork kilawin, and rumaki for appetizer; and leche flan, Pampango fruit salad, fruit tart, and no-bake cheesecake for dessert.

Pollo ala naranja
Pollo ala naranja
no-bake cheesecake
no-bake cheesecake
fruit tart recipe
fruit tart recipe
Judging Table - Let's Cook with Nora Cooking Competition
Judging Table – Let’s Cook with Nora Cooking Competition
Winners of Nora Daza Cooking Competition in Robinsons Place Pavia Iloilo
Winners of Nora Daza Cooking Competition in Robinsons Place Pavia Iloilo

Together with Chef Sandy Daza, Nina Daza-Puyat and fellow journalist Dominic Galeon, we started sampling the dishes. To be honest, we were all amazed by how delectable the food they prepared was. Although everything we tasted deserved to win, Team La Flamme Bleue, composed of Kevin de Asis, Ronson Baticos, John Paul G Tolosa, took home the top prize and the Best in Food Presentation award. After awarding the trophies and medals, we went back to the hotel to freshen up.

Team La Flamme Bleue
Team La Flamme Bleue

To cap off our first day in the city, we revisited Robinsons Place Pavia to engage in the Illongo night market and street food feast. As expected, the place was fully packed with local visitors when we arrived. A lot of people were still lining up to get their food, even as the tables were all occupied.

Grilled Seafood
Grilled Seafood
Chicken Inasal
Chicken Inasal

Fortunately, Chef Tibong reserved a table for us. We then started roaming around the area to get what we wanted to eat. We just had to make our orders which were eventually served and brought to our table. It was definitely a feast for the palate. We tried all the best appetizers, main dishes, and desserts available in the area. My tummy really won that night.

Day 3: The Ultimate Food Trip

It was now our last day in Iloilo. To maximize our time, we skipped breakfast served in Courtyard and headed to our first stop Kap Ising’s Pancit Molo where we had molo soup, fresh lumpia, and their famous kaliskis empanada.

Empanada Kaliskis
Empanada Kaliskis

Located in the district of Molo, Kap Ising serves an heirloom recipe of their grandmother who started serving pancit molo in the 1920s. Situated within their family compound, the eatery also serves as their commissary. There, we were able to witness how they prepare their empanadas.

Lumpiyang Hubad, Empandada Kaliskis and Molo Soup
Lumpiang Hubad, Empanada Kaliskis, and Molo Soup

After finishing a bowl of molo soup, we found ourselves inside La Paz Public Market to check out another famous local eatery Netong’s La Paz Batchoy.

Netongs La Paz Batchoy
Netongs La Paz Batchoy

The term “batchoy” could have been taken from the Chinese “ba-chui” which means pieces of meat. Batchoy, for those who haven’t tasted it, is a soup that is composed of a yummy broth—cooked from boiled buto-buto added with chicken breast, intestines, shrimps and even pork liver—and fresh miki. It is usually sprinkled with pork cracklings to give more texture.

Iloilo Central Public Market
Iloilo Central Public Market

At Netong’s, we ordered another bowl of Batchoy for takeout after dining in. And before leaving the market, we ordered another bowl from Decos. I guess our common goal at that time was to taste the different recipes of La Paz Batchoy offered by different restaurants and eventually compare them.

Popoy's La Paz Batchoy
Popoy’s La Paz Batchoy

For our next stop, we visited Popoy’s Batchoy at Iloilo Central Market. This time, we borrowed two empty bowls where we placed the ones we ordered from Decos and Netongs side by side with that of Popoy’s. Three Batchoys all vying for the best broth in town–which one had the most unforgettable taste? Find out on my next post in The Battle of La Paz Batchoys. 🙂

Decos, Popoy's and Netong's La Paz Batchoy
Decos, Popoy’s and Netong’s La Paz Batchoy

Truth be told, we had a Batchoy overload. We felt we had to give ourselves a fat-free break so before we went to our next food stop, we decided to visit Jaro Cathedral to hear Sunday mass. It was some sort of a simple thanksgiving for the success of this year’s Ilonggo food festival, the mini launch of the updated version of Chef Nora Daza’s cookbook and the first cooking competition created in honor of her.

Jaro Cathedral
Jaro Cathedral

After the mass, we then went to Spring Palace Restaurant where we had beef stew, steamed crabs, garlic shrimps, and steamed vegetables for lunch.

Maridel's Cakes
Maridel’s Cakes

We wanted to try out some enticing desserts so we visited the famous Maridel’s at Plazuela de Iloílo along Benigno Aquino Avenue. Maridel’s is known for its best-tasting cakes. The dessert shop is quite small with a few tables, but we were lucky we were able to secure one when we arrived. We tried Death by Chocolate, frozen lemon meringue pie, and mango ice cream cake and more. I concur with the reviews; their cakes are so good!

Bakery by Louis
Bakery by Louis

As we headed back to the city center for our next food spot, Chef Tibong suggested that we drop by Bakery by Louis to sample their teren-teren with corned beef and hoisin chicken bun. Teren-teren, named for its resemblance to a train, is a popular tasty bread that is usually sold in local panaderias. It is somehow similar to the famous pastel bread of Camiguin.

Despite the loads of food we’ve tried, we still managed to carry on with our food trip. We were here for food, so why not make the most out of the remaining time?

Robertos Siopao
Robertos Siopao

And so we continued our food journey. We drove to Roberto’s to taste their famous Queen Siopao. Aside from Biscocho, one thing I always buy as pasalubong from Iloilo is a box of siopao from Roberto’s which has established itself as a household name in the city.

Located at JM Basa St., Roberto’s first opened on May 25, 1978. Since then, it has become a local favorite even before the food chains started dotting the city. Roberto’s takes pride in its different varieties of siopao but the most sought after is the Queen Siopao. Unlike siopaos in other Chinese restaurants, Roberto’s siopao lives up to its word of not needing any sauce to taste really good.

Tatoy’s Manokan and Seafood
Tatoy’s Manokan and Seafood

Having fulfilled our foodie hearts’ desire, we headed back to the hotel to freshen up, pack our bags, and rest for a while. On our way to the airport, we stopped by Tatoy’s Manokan and Seafood at the airport road. The first Tatoy’s restaurant was built in the 1970’s by a local fisherman named Honorato Tiburan Espinosa.

Ensaladang Lato
Ensaladang Lato
Baked Oysters
Baked Oysters
Dinuguang Manok
Dinuguang Manok

Just like Breakthrough restaurant, Tatoy’s is famous for its seafood dishes and a variety of sumptuous dishes to choose from. To mark the end of our three-day Iloilo food trip, we had grilled native chicken, dinuguang manok, sinigang na hipon, grilled squid, lato salad and chicharon bulaklak for dinner.

Flight back to Manila

I am really fortunate I got to visit some of the best food spots and one of the grandest food festivals in the country that showcases local Illongo cuisine. All thanks to Chef Tibong Jardeleza for making our visit one that’s worth the while. Many thanks for allowing us to go through this fantastic food tour around the city.

Exploring Iloilo’s Best Food Spots
Exploring Iloilo’s Best Food Spots

Sometimes, the food we eat evokes nostalgia especially when we eat it with the best foodie companions. That one bowl of La Paz Batchoy may mean differently to anyone. For Ilonggos who almost always get to frequent restaurants that serve such, it may just be a commonplace for everyone to unwind and slurp on their favorite broth. For visitors like me, it may mean a go-to place I’d always put on my travel itinerary.

Let me end this post with a food quote by famous tenor Luciano Pavarotti. He said, “One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.” Till our next food trip!

Searching for best hotels and affordable flights? Check out our complete list of affordable hotels and resorts via Agoda or you may also see available Airbnb properties in the city.

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