Friday, May 29, 2015

Flavors of Ilocos: Paella, Vigan-Style at Hotel Luna

Our culinary journey of authentic Ilocano flavors continue at Vigan's Hotel Luna, with a lavish dinner spread showcasing unique and distinct regional notes as well as inventive twists on classic Spanish dishes. History and a rich culinary heritage combine for an evening of bold local flavors, served daily at Hotel Luna.

Hotel Luna's Executive Chef Raymond Quitilen impresses once more with his signature dishes, from traditional and rustic starters to comforting and hearty mains, to mark our arrival in Vigan.

The region's vegetables are highlighted with Hotel Luna's Ilocos Ensalada (P 150, L), a variety of steamed and grilled fresh vegetables, including "siling duwag," a mild local pepper with salted egg, tomatoes, and fish paste. Dinengdeng (P 200, R), with native vegetables served with fish sauce and grilled fish complete the salad course. 

Since my first visit to Vigan's Hotel Luna late last year, I've always wanted to go back for a second visit, and this year's summer proved to be the ideal time to once again experience and taste the historic capital's unique charm, heritage and rich flavors (for more on Hotel Luna's varied regional cuisine, check out my previous posts on an equally impressive dinner here at, the very best premium local Kitayama Wagyu steaks in Hotel Luna's Comedor here at, local tapas at Hotel Luna's cool Chula Saloon Bar here at, and the hotel's epic breakfasts here at Executive Chef Raymond Quitilen serves up a local appetizer, the regional Dinakdakan (P 180), delicately grilled pork mask and cheeks with onions and chili peppers, to go with the local salads. Tender, soft and chewy with just a whisper of acidity from the vinegar marinade makes this dish the perfect starter before the mains.

A comforting bowl of Sinanglao (P 180), a light yet flavorful broth with beef innards, tendon, liver, and ox mask layered with the tart notes of sour tamarind, is served next. The simplicity of the dish gives it a rustic and warm, homestyle flavor, and the tamarind base and scallions perfectly tempers the richness of the soup for balanced flavors. I remember enjoying this dish on my first visit to Hotel Luna, and it's great to see the dish served again that evening to complete the experience.

Lechon Manok Iloco (P 300), a whole roasted chicken, chopped in serving pieces, and topped with karimbuaya, a local Ilocano herb, is served next. The tender and juicy chicken, with a light and crisp outer layer, is complemented by the subtle nutty and minty notes of the local herb for that distinct Iloco touch. One more piece? Absolutely.

Executive Chef Raymond Quitilen serves his own take on one of the region's culinary specialties, the bagnet, with his Luna Bagnet (P 400), tender pork with a crispy outer layer of crackling served with "KBL," or kamatis (tomatoes), bagoong (salted fish paste), and lasones (local Ilocano onions). The perfectly crisp bagnet releases rich and juicy flavors with every bite, and the sharpness of the "KBL" tempers the richness for a great pairing. Extra rice? Why not.

Then, Executive Chef Raymond Quitilen presents the highlight of the evening's dinner, with Hotel Luna's signature Ilocano Paella (P 350 Small/P 1,050 Medium/P 1,950 Large), topped with fresh shrimps, clams, salted egg, Vigan longanisa and various local vegetables used in pinakbet and dinengdeng gives this iconic Spanish dish a local spin. The rice is perfectly soft and fluffy, absorbing all the flavors of the different toppings. It's the toppings that make this dish, infused with local flavors, making it comfortingly familiar yet refreshingly different.And it's a unique and flavorful taste of Vigan.

Melvin heads the courteous staff at Hotel Luna, as he serves up the Ilocano Paella, ensuring each plate has all the the different toppings to fully experience Hotel Luna's inventive twist on paella. 

But Executive Chef Raymind Quitilen isn't done yet. Hotel Luna's signature All-Meat Paella (P 350 Small/P 1,050 Medium/P 1,950 Large), topped with garlicky Vigan longanisa and crispy pork bagnet, is also served. Another distinct paella dish with a playful local twist, the Vigan longanisa and bagnet adds a whole new flavor profile to the classic paella, with the signature flavors of the region. This one's a must try-dish at Hotel Luna, seriously good.

The parade of local flavors continued with Hotel Luna's native Bibinka (P 125) topped with cheese and salted egg to cap a sumptuous Ilocano feast. And just like my first visit, Executive Chef Raymond Quitilen impresses once again with his range of unique local signature dishes.

After a sumptuous dinner at Hotel Luna, a shot or two of premium Scotch on the rocks completes the evening.

It was way past midnight, and a walk along the historic Calle Crisologo located parallel to Hotel Luna seemed like a good idea to take in the local vibe and work off the extra pounds. Day 1 of another classic Vigan adventure ends, and a whole new day of discovery and experiences lie ahead...

Hotel Luna is located at Luna Street, Vigan, Ilocos Sur or call (+632) 584-4945 (Manila Line) or (+077) 632-2222 for inquiries and more information. You can also visit their website here at

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