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10 International Cuisines to Try in Iloilo City

by Trixie Reyna

Iloilo is a foodie haven, but not only because Ilonggo cuisine is one of the best and most distinct in the Philippines.

In fact, the city’s bustling food scene is peppered with good restaurants serving a wide variety of cuisine from all over the world. Dining around Iloilo City can be like taking a food trip around the globe—there’s always something new to taste and try. So if you're in town and craving a particular international flavor, you’re guaranteed to find the restaurant that will satisfy your palate.

1. Italian at Al Dente

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Iloilo serves up a great taste of Italy at Al Dente, currently located at the ground floor of The Mansion (formerly Sarabia Manor Hotel) but slated to transfer to a new location by August 2018. It’s the perfect place for a casual dinner date or business lunch, especially when you’re already billeted in the city’s iconic hotel, which was recently refurbished with modern conveniences.

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Running for almost 20 years now, Al Dente continues to offer its own delicious and reasonably-priced take on Italian staples: antipasti, pasta, pizza, and classic entrées. They serve complimentary bread crisps while you wait, too.

Our recommendations include Rotollo di Pollo (P325), tender chicken fillet filled with cheese then wrapped in strips of bacon and served with sweet barbecue sauce and mashed potatoes that are delightfully creamy and chunky at the same time. Their hearty Spaghetti Bolognese (P250) is to die for, with ground beef and pork, fresh tomatoes, mushrooms, and olive oil, served with buttery garlic toast. It’s slightly sweet—no doubt to cater to the Pinoy palate—but still so enticing, the aroma alone will whet your appetite. Their large servings are best shared by two or more.

Don’t forget to sample their signature biscuit-thin pizza, probably the thinnest and crispiest you’ll ever have. Try the Quattro Formaggio (P175 for 8-inch, P275 for 12-inch), loaded with cheese and a special sauce that’s also on the sweet side.

Al Dente Ristorante Italiano
The Mansion, 101 General Luna St, Iloilo City Proper
(033) 336 7813
Daily, 10 AM - 9 PM

2. Japanese at Nonki

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While technically not an Iloilo original—branches in Cebu and Davao came first—Nonki filled a void by offering a real taste of Japanese dining that locals had been waiting for. Here, you can load up on sushi, tonkatsu, udon, ramen, and other Japanese faves in a well-lit, modern space.

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Try the Ebi Tempura (P335 for 5 large pieces), Salmon Cheese Roll (with raw salmon, P305), and Salmon Maki Special (with cooked salmon, P255). Their version of katsudon, Katsu Ju (P270), already comes with miso soup. They also serve Japanese drinks like sake, Asahi beer (P180), and Kaku High Ball (whiskey soda, P150).

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Menu items may be priced higher than your average Ilonggo meal, but they’re definitely worth it; the assorted sashimi platter, for example, costs a reasonable P480. You’re given a free mini starter after you place your order, which arrives swiftly and efficiently. Book one of the sunken tables in the tatami room to complete your Japanese experience.

Nonki Japanese Restaurant
Grand Xing Imperial Hotel, H. Montinola Corner, Muelle Loney St., Iloilo City
(033) 314 7157
Daily, 11 AM - 2 PM, 5:30 - 10:30 PM

3. Thai at Takuapa

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There are a number of Thai restaurants around Iloilo City, but Takuapa is hands-down the best one and a favorite among locals. This unassuming home-style deli serves authentic Thai food at the lowest prices—all dishes we love are below P200!

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Start off with the Yam Pla Duk (P110), a beautifully prepared salad made of catfish flakes, green mango slivers, peanuts, tomatoes, shallots, and coriander. Ask for some lime vinegar to drizzle over it for that delicious blend of tangy, savory, and sweet tastes! You also have to try the Tom Yum Goong (P165), a spicy and tart hot soup with prawns that truly hits the spot; and the Chicken Curry (P159), whose savory red curry sauce has the right amount of spice and acidity. Pad Thai noodles (P109) and assorted fried rice (pork, P88; chicken, P88; and crab, P95) will complete your Thai feast on the cheap. Wash it all down with sweet and refreshing Thai iced tea with milk, Cha Nom Yen (P60).

Takuapa Thai Deli
Unit 2 Romnelcar 2 Building, Burgos St. cor. Gustilo St., La Paz, Iloilo City
(033) 320 3309
Daily, 11 AM - 8 PM

4. Mediterranean Fusion at Live by Healthy Kitchen

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If you're looking for a vegetarian-friendly resto or just a place to get a yummy and affordable guilt-free meal in Iloilo, head over to Live by Healthy Kitchen. It’s a decent spot to sate your Mediterranean fusion cravings while making sure you don't stray too far from your diet.

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Sample the Roti Canai Platter, with two large rotis and four assorted dips (hummus, curry, mint chutney, and our favorite garlic yoghurt), good for sharing at only P185, or get a solo order of Single Dip Roti for only P60. The Roti Quesadillas (P165), served with garlic yoghurt, tomato salsa, and sweet potato chips, are also substantial enough for a light and tasty meal.

For mains, the mouth-watering Chicken Pandan Curry (P230), served with purple rice, is one of the best curry dishes you’ll ever have in Iloilo. The Salmon Belly Mediterranean Pasta (P210) and any of the Wheat Pizzas are also great choices for carbs with a little less guilt. Wash your meal down with healthy smoothies (P90-P165) or fresh fruit juice with chia seeds (all at P75).

As the purveyor of healthy eating in Iloilo, Live by Healthy Kitchen also offers calorie-counted meal plans, with a menu that changes weekly.

Live by Healthy Kitchen
SM City Iloilo Southpoint, Mandurriao, Iloilo City
(0917) 700 5834
Daily, 7 AM - 10 PM

5. Chinese at Spring Palace Seafood Restaurant

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Throngs of Chinese immigrants landed in Iloilo between the 16th to 20th centuries, so China’s culture and cuisine are deeply embedded in Iloilo's. It’s no surprise then that there are plenty of decent Chinese restaurants scattered around the city. What we recommend, however, is one of the relatively newer spots: brightly lit and spacious Spring Palace.

While it calls itself a seafood restaurant, the true highlight is its delightful selection of Chinese dishes that come in three sizes (small, medium, and large) and offer great value for money. The small is already big enough for sharing.

Start with some Siomai and a rich, tummy-warming bowl of Hot and Sour Seafood Soup. For your mains, have the savory-sweet Roast Pork Asado, Sweet and Sour Pork, and succulent Buttered Chicken. Complete your meal with a heaping platter of Yang Chow Fried Rice loaded with bits of asado, shrimp, and green peas.

Spring Palace Seafood Restaurant
Smallville Complex, Dr. Rizalina Bernardo Ave. cor. Boardwalk Ave., Mandurriao, Iloilo City
(033) 331 9282
Daily, 11 AM -2 PM, 5:30 - 10 PM

6. Korean at Kogi & Vegi

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With a growing Korean community in Iloilo, more Korean restaurants are popping up around town—some even better and more affordable than those in Manila. Yet Kogi & Vegi remains a favorite among locals and Koreans who live in and visit Iloilo. One can chalk it up to its cozy atmosphere and excellent location overlooking the Iloilo River and Esplanade, but it’s probably because it satisfies your craving for authentic Korean fare without doing much damage to your wallet.

We recommend Yukgaejang (spicy beef soup), made with beef brisket and vegetables swimming in a steaming, super spicy soup seasoned with chili powder, served with a cup of purple rice. There’s a minimum of two orders for their grilled beef and pork, so get one each of Samgyupsal (pork belly) and Woosamgyup (beef), which you’ll cook yourself on your table’s built-in smokeless grill. Each order comes with lettuce leaves for wrapping cooked meat, as well as a variety of banchan (refillable side dishes), like kimchi, other pickled vegetables, peanuts and eggs in a sweet brown sauce, and savory-sweet crispy anchovies. Their Ssamjang (spicy-sweet Korean barbecue dipping sauce) is inarguably the best we’ve tried in Iloilo!

Kogi & Vegi
Riverside Boardwalk, Dr. Rizalina Bernardo Pison Ave. cor. Paciencia T. Pison Ave., Brgy. San Rafael, Mandurriao, Iloilo City
(0917) 328 3875
Daily, 10 AM - 10 PM

7. Vietnamese at Troi Oi

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While a relative newcomer to the Iloilo City gastro scene, having opened only in late 2016, Troi Oi already has hordes of regular customers, locals and tourists alike. People come for their reasonably-priced authentic Vietnamese dishes conceptualized and prepared by a true-blue Vietnamese head chef. Enjoy dining in Troi Oi’s homey space decorated with Vietnamese knick-knacks and colorful paper lanterns.

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Their Pho (noodle soup) is supposedly the best in the city, with a tasty and aromatic beef broth flavored with spices imported from Vietnam, mixed with herbs and a variety of vegetables. A regular bowl (P250) can be shared by two. For a belly-filling meal, order a regular Banh Mi (P180), with home-made liver pate, chicken or pulled pork, and pickled vegetables, stuffed into a crispy baguette then drizzled with a secret sauce. Also popular are the Grilled Chicken Thighs (P280), deboned and marinated in special Vietnamese spices with a great balance of sweet and savory flavors.

Troi Oi Vietnamese Street Food Restaurant
Riverside Boardwalk, Dr. Rizalina Bernardo Pison Ave. cor. Paciencia T. Pison Ave., Brgy. San Rafael, Mandurriao, Iloilo City
(033) 323 3169
Daily, 11 AM - 10 PM

8. Spanish at Madrid

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With its blend of traditional and modern cuisine, charming bistro Madrid is the closest you can get to a Spanish wining and dining experience in Iloilo.

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While their extensive menu is primarily in Español, you’ll find a lot of familiar fare among their tapas selection. Sample their Croquetas (P145), made of potato, cheese, and chorizo, served with garlic aioli; Chorizo Duo (P165), or two types of chorizo (Bilbao and Fresca) cooked in garlic and olive oil and served with baguette; and Quezo Fundido (P165), warm and creamy cheese fondue with bits of chorizo, served with garlic bread. They also have four different types of Salpicao, sauteed meat chunks in Spanish olive oil and garlic. Our top picks? The Camaron (shrimps, P185) and Solomillo (beef tenderloin, P195). While all these are below P200, best believe they will fill you up, so dine with the whole crew so you can try a little bit of everything.

Paella, of course, is in order: there are five different varieties to choose from, but you can’t go wrong with the Paella Valenciana (P395 for two, P595 for the family size).

Madrid Spanish Bistro
Shops at Atria, Atria Park District, Mandurriao, Iloilo City
(0917) 807 1199
(0977) 885 0028
Daily, 10 AM - 10 PM

9. American at Salt Gastro Lounge

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A famous New York-themed lounge, Salt’s chill and inviting ambience is defined by Big Apple-inspired decor and murals, red brick walls, and comfy seats. Their menu consists of American comfort food and bar chow at very reasonable prices that continue to attract crowds of Ilonggos, despite the occasional need to wait in line. It’s the perfect place to hang out with friends on weekend evenings, when a live band is present to play your favorite tunes.

Get your fill of burger and fries, pizza, and chicken wings in a variety of flavors—we love their Garlic Parmesan (P225) and Upstate Style (P195), buffalo wings with chili glaze, barbecue sauce, crudites, and blue cheese sour cream. Also dig into their version of mac and cheese, the Bacon Cheese Casserole (P265), with four-cheese sauce and chunky bacon bits; and Grilled Tenderloin Steak (P365) served with spiced potato fries. Revel in the bar’s many cocktail choices, but get a glass (or two or more!) of their Margarita and Mojito—both pack a potent yet refreshing punch, but are steals at only P120. For dessert, indulge in their new sinfully delectable Molten Lava Cake (P185) made of dark chocolate, served with vanilla ice cream.

Salt Gastro Lounge
Manfreds Place, Gen. Luna St., Iloilo City Proper
(033) 335 4529
Daily, 10 AM - 12 MN

10. German at Bavaria

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Rounding up our culinary journey around the world in Iloilo City is a hole-in-the-wall German pub built by a German national and his (ex) wife along a narrow, quiet street in Jaro. Finding Bavaria is tricky, but the location is ideal if you want to escape the hustle and bustle of crowded commercial areas and relax with a pint of beer in hand.

You'll find excellent drinking companions in their legit German fare, which includes schnitzels and sausages like Bratwurst (P250) and Nurnberger (P270), served with home-made sauerkraut and potatoes. This is quite possibly the only place where you can get sauerkraut in Iloilo, at only P60 when ordered as a side.

And as beer aficionados know, German beer is truly one of the best! Ready your belly and liver because it comes in a gigantic 1L mug—but like a true-blue Ilonggo joint, Bavaria charges only P160 per serving. If you want something slightly sweet, get the Radlermass or Dieselmass, but hard-core beer drinkers would love the Bavarianmass. Prost!

Bavaria German Restaurant
113 Seminario St., Jaro, Iloilo City
(033) 329 0078
Daily, 8 AM - 12 AM

Looking to explore Iloilo's local cuisine, as well its sights, sounds, and hidden gems? Find travel inspo from our travel guide here.

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About Trixie
Trixie Reyna-Benedicto is a born and bred Manila girl, lifestyle blogger, and content expert who moved to Iloilo when she married her Ilonggo sweetheart. When she’s not writing for magazines and websites or updating trixiereyna.com, she enjoys exploring new locales and trying restaurants and bars around the Philippines and abroad.

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