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Buffets have become a welcome part of Manila's dining scene–there's one in every hotel and several restaurants have become dining destinations because of their buffet spreads.
But buffets are so much more than just the quantity of food, reveals this year's panel of judges for the Nescafe Gold Spot Awards. For Chef Him Uy de Baron, quality is king. "Buffets are difficult to do, especially if you do it twice a day, every day. [So] finding a restaurant buffet that still takes time to put in quality food and takes pains in planning the menu based on ingredients in season, flavor and textural variety and not just on the operational side, is a rare treat."
Pastry chef Aileen Anastacio looks out for variety. "Second on the list would be the freshness of the food. I hate going to a buffet where the food looks dry because it's been sitting on the chafing dish for a long time already."
Fellow judge JJ Yulo agrees. "A great buffet is not just about abundance and variety, but about how much the cooks care about the food they put out on the spread as well. I would rather a shorter buffet with excellent dishes than a mile-long buffet with mediocre things on it."
This year, five spots are in the running for the distinction of serving the best buffet in Manila:
Lunch: P1,424 (Monday-Saturday)/ P1,900 on Sundays (Includes an iced tea buffet on Sundays)
Dinner: P1,640 (dinner buffet from Sunday to Thursday)/ P1,900 on Fridays (Seafood Night) and Saturdays (Barbeque Night)
With its five open theater kitchens, selections of appetizers, seafood, Western and Asian cuisine, and a slew of desserts, diners are spoilt for choice at the Circles Event Café. With a seating capacity of 300, Circles' doors open at 6 a.m. for breakfast, and are open until 12 midnight on weekdays and until 2 a.m. on weekends. Friday and Saturday nights have themed buffet spreads such as Seafood Night and Barbeque Night.
Price: P1,450 net adults, P775 net Children 6-12 years old and free for 6 years old and below.
Dusit Thani's Crossover Sunday Brunch Buffet gives diners access to the hotel's various restaurants: Umu, Basix, Tosca and Benjarong. From 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Sundays, you may choose one of the restaurants as your "homebase" and indulge in Italian (Tosca), Japanese (Umu), Continental and Filipino (Basix) or Thai dishes (Benjarong).
"We are very pleased with the feedback we have been getting from our diners who have tried our Sunday Family Crossover Brunch. Aside from high praises to the premium quality of food and service we have been getting, they just can't stop raving about the entirely new idea of crossing over one bistro to another. And we're not only talking about two or three but four specialty restaurants." says Dusit Thani's Food and Beverage Director Gilbert Uy.
Price: P888++ for adults including champagne, P 488++ for kids 12 years old and below
Garnering the plum prize for Best Brunch in the 2008 Gold Spot Awards, Museum Café's Champagne Jazz Brunch features a Modern Asian-inspired selection of fresh Aklan oysters, sushi, dimsum, a noodle soup bar, pasta and omelette stations, roasted Atlantic salmon and USDA beef carving stations, an unusual salad bar, Filipino breakfast favorites, and Belgian waffles, coupled with live jazz in the background, making it a weekend brunch destination.
The buffet, which started in 2006, was inspired by a love for Sunday brunch. "We wanted to offer a Sunday brunch as good and creative as the hotels but with better value," says owner Andrej Wisniewski, "Plus it's nice to sit by the museum on a Sunday and listen to live jazz. [The brunch] has become a big hit among locals and expats in the know."
Price: P1,473 nett for lunch and P 1,596 nett for dinner
Paseo Uno, Mandarin Oriental Manila's all-day restaurant, has four buffet stations tucked in different corners. Offering sushi, flavorful rolls, steamed crabs, a selection of salads, grilled meat, and dessert, the varied selection fills just about every craving. With a wine list that is one of the most extensive in Manila, you won't be hard-pressed to find a bottle to go with your food choices.
According to Erika Aquino of the Mndarin Oriental, Paseo Uno "introduced the concept of interactive kitchens and buffets. In keeping with Mandarin Oriental's tradition of culinary excellence, Paseo Uno's buffet selections always emphasize quality over quantity–we use only the freshest ingredients in our recipes. It's a constant variation of cycles, all of which have dishes that cater to different tastes. The ambience as well is wonderful–it's chic, and feels more intimate."
Lunch: P2,073 (Monday to Saturday)/ P3,301 on Sundays
Dinner: P2,319 (Sunday to Thursday)/ P2,564 (Friday to Saturday)
With multi-cuisine open stations and a seating capacity of 400, Spiral at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza is one of the biggest hotel buffets in Manila. Known for its Chinese buffet station, prime ribs, variety of cheeses, a dessert station with French pastries and an impressive wine cellar, everything at Spiral, including the elegant interiors, are nothing short of impressive.
Which is your favorite buffet? Click here to start voting.
Images courtesy of Star (Spiral), Mandarin Oriental Manila, Makati Shangri-la, Dusit Thani Manila and Museum Cafe.