101 Brentwood Dr
South San Francisco, CA 94080
By Beatrice Esteban, Courier Staff Writer
Filipino food has always been a favorite of mine – and not just because I’m Filipino. There’s something about the diversity offered by Filipino food that I find difficult to parallel. The soups can be had in so many different ways: one can drink it straight as soup, mix it with rice, or even add other foods to enhance the flavor. The meats can be dipped in a variety of different sauces and cooked with a plethora of methods. It is quite possible that two people can order the same exact dish and have completely dissimilar experiences with it.
My aunt’s birthday falls on a weekday, but since she enjoys spending time with family so much, she wanted to take us out to dinner for nice Filipino food on the weekend in order to celebrate. Many of her friends highly recommended Intramuros Restaurant and Bar in South San Francisco, so she made reservations for Saturday at 7pm. We also had a guest: my boyfriend, who had never had Filipino food before.
The restaurant gives you a nice atmosphere to begin with. There is nice, minimalist décor situated throughout the room. The receptionists were not Filipino, but while waiting for our tables I noticed that the waiters and most of the diners were. There was also a piano in the middle of the dining room, with a sitting pianist playing.
Upon being seated our water glasses were immediately filled and we were asked if there was anything else we would like to drink. We were then left alone to take a look at the menu.
The menu has the “typical” Filipino fixings: kare-kare, adobo, bami, pancit canton, sinigang, etc. However, what’s unique about the sinigang offered here is that there are actually four types: grilled milkfish, smoked milkfish, beef, and a combination of other meats in one. It also boasts of crispy pata, lechon kawali, four different types of paella, binagoongang, and pastel de lengua. I would have liked to try the roast pig (lechon de leche) but the restaurant requires that you order it two days in advance – a sensible request, because it is a difficult dish to prepare. The dessert menu features many Americanized versions of classic Filipino favorites, such as a soufflé similar to bibingka.
Because my family is so big, we ordered separate dishes for both sides of the table. My side started off with the Intramuros Sampler which had small lumpia (spring rolls), stuffed shrimp rolls, and cheese sticks served with sweet and sour sauce. In addition we ordered the calamares fritos, or battered and fried shrimp. All were very hot when we ordered, but after waiting for them to cool down, they weren’t anything particularly spectacular. However, I held on to the hope that the rest of the meal would be better.
For our main dishes, my family ordered the grilled bangus sinigang. Sinigang, put simply, is a slightly tart and flavorful broth with vegetables and meat (or in this case “bangus,” or milkfish). I personally enjoy when my sinigang is very tart, and this restaurant’s level of tartness was perfect for me.
In addition, we ordered the lechon kawali, which is basically deep-fried pork rinds served with a liver sauce. It was very crunchy and not too oily, but wasn’t anything special. The same could be said about the rest of my meal: satisfying but not amazing.
The service was generally excellent: my glass of water did not stay empty for very long, and the waiters were perfectly happy to indulge any requests that my family had. However, an issue that I had was that the crispy pata came in either one or two orders. I had ordered one order for my side of the table, and the other side of the table ordered one as well, but the waiter was confused and gave the other side both orders. My boyfriend and I were left waiting for nearly 15 minutes for crispy pata (crisp pork hacks) that did not offer anything different than any other restaurant I’d been to.
The dessert was delicious: my entire family decided to try individual orders of the bibingka soufflé. Bibingka is a dessert in the Philippines made of glutinous rice topped with white cheese, salted egg, and grated coconut served on a banana leaf. The dessert offered at Intramuros modifies this: it instead places all the ingredients in a small bowl aside from the white cheese, which is meant to be added in by the customer according to her taste. Because I generally do not eat many desserts and this was my boyfriend’s first exposure to Filipino food, we decided to share an order. It was very hot when we both tried it and although the egg was a little too salty for my taste, it was generally very good.
There was nothing precisely wrong with the food, but having grown up in a Filipino household that still cooks traditional Filipino food, I immediately noticed that my great-grandmother has cooked better. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the food at Intramuros was “bad,” but simply that I’ve had better. The prices at the restaurant do not necessarily correspond with the quality of the food: anywhere between $8-$25 per dish depending on what you order.
Intramuros may be a good restaurant, but if you’re looking to save money on good Filipino food, my suggestion is to remain in Union City and scope out the many Filipino restaurants within the area. However, if you are looking for a finer dining experience, then Intramuros may just be the restaurant for you.