Little España

I don’t really do restaurant reviews. Mainly because I only have five things to say about food: Awesome, Good, Good Enough, Meh, and Bad. Or I make a face and people know I want to spit it out if I haven’t already. Besides, of all the times I’ve eaten out, I only have a handful of favorite restos here in Cebu: Sumo Sam for Japanese, Cyma for Mediterranean, Casa Verde for steak, Yellow Cab for pizza, and KFC for fast food.

Yes, they are all located in Ayala, for some reason, except for the four-cheese penne pasta from The Old Spaghetti Factory, and the bagoong rice from Mae Krua on F. Ramos Street.

Then across the street and a few doors down from Mae Krua is a haunt that I wanted to go to since I moved here, but didn’t get the chance to go to until that fateful Valentine’s day. Read: We forgot to get dinner reservations, so we had to look for a place, ended up sitting at the bar there for a while, and got a table at nine in the evening.

The place is called Ipar’s Restaurante Y Bar De Tapas.

Finally, Spanish food.

Their specialty? Paella, of course, because what can be more Spanish than paella?

So of course we ordered that for our entrée. We had the Paella Marinera, which has fresh fish, squid, and shellfish, and tastes like how paella should taste — unlike the one this chain restaurant used to have that tasted suspiciously canned.

It took a while to get the paella ready though, so the staff gave us a complimentary appetizer, the Boquerones which are servings of white anchovies wrapped around olives and speared through slices of baguette, with a light drizzle of olive oil. It was delicious, if you’re into raw fish (marinated in vinegar) like I am.

Then we also had some Patata con Alioli, which is basically potatoes with garlic mayo, but it was so delish at Ipar’s I could have eaten the whole bowl (but I didn’t because well, I wasn’t alone at the table, am I?)

I’m off red meat for a while, so we had Pechuga en Salsa, which translates to pan-seared chicken breasts in cream sauce with mushrooms. The perfectly cooked chicken doused in rich, creamy sauce made me wish I can cook better, but hey, at least my chicken is never half-cooked anymore, so I’m taking it as a sign that I have better kitchen skills now.

Spanish Food

Clockwise from top left: Boquerones Olivada, Pechuga en Salsa, Paella Marinera, and Patatas con Alioli

But the food isn’t even the best part of it: the ambience is amazing — made me feel like I was in old Spain, very European feels. Also, I love the artwork on their walls — pictures of flamenco dancers and painted tiles, tree stump tables, they even had a tapestry and a coat of arms! It’s cheery and a bit dingy at night: very much what I imagined dining in Barcelona would feel like. And because we sat at the bar for a while, we saw how the staff prepared the meals, and they were very efficient.

We would applaud the staff. It was Valentine’s and the place is packed, so packed in fact, that we had to wait for people to vacate their tables so that we can get seated, and it took almost an hour before they had a table ready for us. We didn’t even get the chance to feel impatient about it because it was entertaining to watch them from the bar, and they served us with our appetizers, and took our orders. And every time a member of the staff passes by, they smile at us and update us on the status of our table, or our orders, and they’re so nice about it, you’d think the place is half-empty instead of jam-packed.

Even if the food isn’t that good, I’d go back there for the service, but the menu is amazing, the place is hauntingly beautiful, and the staff is efficient.

Ipar's Dining Area

Ipar’s Dining Area, I went for the walls, I know. I’ll get better pictures next time.

As for the price?

You might want to go there on pay-day, it’s a bit steep; but you can find items on the menu that won’t make you cry, as long as you stick to an order or two. Getting through three or four courses can get a bit expensive, though, as it usually does with dinner dates on Valentine’s Day. 🙂

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