CHECK IT OUT: Distinctly Danang at Market Cafe, Hyatt Hotel and Casino

Market Cafe
Third floor, Hyatt Hotel and Casino, Pedro Gil corner M.H. Del Pilar Street, Malate, Manila
Tel. No. 245-1234
Open 24 hours daily

Vietnamese cuisine at its most authentic. Click for more.

Considering its similarity to Filipino cuisine, it’s a mystery why Metro Manila is not sprawling with Viet grub, a viable alternative in case we need a break from the strong flavors of adobo and sinigang. But then again in the local restaurant scene, only few Vietnamese restaurants extend their repertoire beyond pho, bahn mi, and vegetables. Here, Viet fare is still largely unfamiliar and, well, "noodle-ly."

From now until September 16, the Market Cafe at Hyatt Hotel and Casino is giving us an authentic taste of Vietnam with the Distinctly Danang Food Festival. Flown in from Hyatt Vietnam are chefs Ho Thi Tin and Le Hoi Tuong to recreate for Filipinos recipes designed by former emperors of the Hun province and flavors from Danang.

The array of salads is characteristically Southeast Asian; all a palette of sweet, tang, spice, or a combination of the three. To get the most out of the experience, sample the pomelo salad. Salty bits of dried shrimp make for a chewy edge while mint leaves give it an aromatically sweet layer. At first glance, one might confuse the bowl of sweet and sour soup for Tom Yum. This Viet rendition, however, is made with tomatoes and is much milder and lighter-just how soup should be.

Rice, as a staple in every Asian meal, deserves necessary mention. Danang’s salted fish rice has a touch of savor, but doesn’t overpower the tastebuds-a quality that shouldn’t be overlooked especially in a buffet as extensive as Market Cafe’s. Best pair it with the pan-fried sea bass fillet or the sauteed spinach. Another worthy option is the sauteed beef tenderloin: strips of beef flavored with green pepper, onion, and capsicum.

The dessert table would likely catch the Pinoy eye and palate. Feeling very familiar are the cream caramel (a subtler take on leche flan with a dollop of whipped cream); banana soup with coconut milk and roasted peanut (very ginataan), and green bean sweet soup on shaved ice (halo-halo but with ear mushroom or taengang daga). Most intriguing, however, is the pig skin cake, which much to our disappointment and relief, was not some pastry tucked inside chicharon. The triple layer rice cake resembles sapin-sapin more than pigs in a blanket with the top and bottom layer thick and congealed and looking very much like pig fat. It was a conscious effort in the local Hyatt to give it a green hue to prevent confusion.

The Market Cafe Buffet costs P1,800 (weekend and weekday dinner time) and P1,600 (weekday lunch time). The Surf and Turf Dinner Buffet inclusive of the Distinctly Danang Food Festival is P1,950 on Fridays and Saturdays only.

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