by Abigail Javellana
A trip to Iloilo wouldn't be complete without sampling fresh seafood, creamy oysters, native lechon manok, pancit molo, and of course, the famed cholesterol-laden batchoy!
During our visit, we stopped by Breakthrough Restaurant and Tatoy's Manokan & Seafoods--the kings of fresh seafood famous for their Ilonggo-style cooking!
Here's what to expect at my two favorite seafood restaurants in Iloilo...
Breakthrough Restaurant is a must-visit for tourists and locals alike. They are famous for their aligue rice, managat fish, lechon, and creamy oysters!
The name, according to owner and Marine Biologist Raymundo Robles, was inspired by every scientist’s aspiration to achieve a breakthrough in their field.
Best to dine at Breakthrough's Villa branch, which serves mouth-watering seafood dishes made even more appetizing by the fresh sea breeze.
The restaurant is just by the beach, which adds to the overall appeal of the place.
You order your food carinderia (i.e. “turo-turo”) style.
They have aquariums where you can see the fresh catch of the day.
Aligue Rice (Double-P90)
Order the Aligue Rice, a sinful dish made up crab fat mixed with fried rice. I loved the generous amount of aligue!
Lechon (Unod-P180, Ribs-P200)
Those who aren't fans of seafood will love their lechon. Eating the crispy skin dipped in thick liver salsa is the best part!
Talaba/Oysters (Steamed-P60, Baked-P120)
60 pesos for bucket of Oysters? Yes, please!
When visiting Iloilo, eating the creamy-milky talaba is a must. You can tell good quality oyster by its smell and fresh, fatty, and succulent taste. Ilonggos prefer to pair these with the iconic spicy vinegar, “sinamak,” often mixed with soy sauce and calamansi.
For those new to eating talaba, I suggest you try the baked version topped with garlic and cheese (though it's 3x more expensive than the steamed version).
Imbao--a large, fatty type of clam--is the pride of the Visayan region and is best eaten raw or in a soup. It has a jelly-like texture.
We had ours in a soup, which tastes similar to the Filipino “Halaan” soup.
Baked Scallop (P225)
The scallops are also good if you want something more familiar. :)
Managat (Please check availability & prices)
Order the sinugba (grilled) na Managat fish (also known as Red Snapper) cultured by the owner himself. The flavorful fish has a fatty, meaty, and soft flesh that customers love.
Villa Beach, Barangay Sto. Niño Norte, Arevalo, Iloilo, Philippines
Phone: +63 33 337-3027
Tatoy's is another must-visit resto famed for their signature native lechon manok, kinilaw na tanigue, boneless bangus, and Ilonggo-style seafood!
They also follow the same “turo-turo” setting.
The best place to sit is in their native picnic huts by the beach, which tend to get full quickly. So, best to reserve early.
Because the place was packed during our visit, we opted to sit in their open-air, sandy floor dining area instead.
There's also an air-conditioned area if you're looking for a much more cooler venue.
Native Manok (P330)
Their crowd favorite dish is the “daraag,” a charcoal-roasted native chicken marinated in vinegar and stuffed with lemongrass and sampalok leaves.
Crisped to a golden brown, the chicken has a flavorful sour taste from the marinade. I love the native chicken for its leaner meat despite the gamey texture. A must-try!
We always order this. I love the freshness of the fish and their spicy vinegar marinade. Another must-try!
Grilled Bangus (P320)
Large size boneless bangus marinated inasal-style. Very tasty and juicy!
Talaba/Oysters (P70) - Talaba/Oysters w/cheese (P180)
Creamy, rich, and smooth oysters!
While we had talaba at Tatoy's and Breakthrough, these can also be found in many other talabahan and seafood restaurants in the city.
Angel Wings (Please check availability & prices)
If you're lucky, you can also eat the seasonal angel-wing shaped diwal from Capiz! These have a similar taste to mussels but the texture of fresh oyster, giving it a distinct flavor. I usually prefer it baked, steamed, or grilled and topped with fresh garlic.
Tatoy's Manokan and Seafoods
Valuarte-Calumpang-Villa-Oton Road, Sto. Niño Sur, Arevalo, Iloilo City
Phone: Main Branch +63 33 337-1360, 337-4276
When I ask my friends which restaurant they prefer, there doesn't seem to be a clear winner between the Breakthrough and Tatoy's. As for me, all I know is I love them both, so I always make it a point to visit the two restaurants whenever I'm in town.
But if you ever need to choose only one establishment, here are my recommended dishes for each...
For Breakthrough, go for their lechon, talaba, managat, and aligue rice. For Tatoy's, try the native lechon manok, talaba, bangus, and especially the kinilaw.
So, what's your favorite seafood dish? I love Aklan oysters and yes, I can finish a whole bucket on my own! I also recommend ordering the diwal (angel wings) and Imbao if they are in season.
Live an Awesome Life,
ABI of Team Our Awesome Planet
Disclosure: We paid for our own lunch and dinner. I wrote this article with my biases, opinions, and insights.
P.S. For a sweet treat to end your meal, watch out for the manong selling these native molasses.