Niu By Vikings
6/F SM Aura Premier, 26th Street corner McKinley Parkway, Bonifacio Global City
Contact: 478-3888, 0917-586-6888, 0919-999-6888
Open daily from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
(SPOT.ph) A buffet is one those things that can never be truly justified with words. No matter what you say-smorgasbord, unlimited, variety-nothing quite measures up to what you actually see on the counters. Niu by Vikings is one of those cases. Photos alone aren't enough to set it apart from the original Vikings brand, but Niu is in a class of its own, the kind you can tell by taste.
Muted colors give it extra sophistication.
Survey the sections.
Some light fare to start the gastronomic adventure.
A comparison is inevitable, of course, and one of the owners, Charles Dee, isn't coy about stating the distinction. Niu addresses the more discerning, more upscale diner. "The ingredients we use in Vikings are good, but for Niu, it's really premium," he says, "We have figs, arugula, Gorgonzola cheese, wine." Niu also has a foie gras station that makes the P1,388++ price per head seem especially reasonable considering that the French delicacy comes unlimited.
Lobster in miso soup
Surf and Turf-with shrimp and Lechon Macau
Two servers are assigned for every 30 diners to ensure more personalized attention. See, Niu makes standing optional, though we doubt that you’d be able to help yourself from patrolling and observing the shiny chafing trays loaded with food. Still, after your third and fourth plate, when standing up starts to feel like a chore, guests can simply request an order, and let servers do the walking. The dish that arrives at your table is beautifully plated, like what you'll have in a fine-dining restaurant. Tell your server you want Surf and Turf, he'll make some recommendations, and let the chef work his magic with what's available in the buffet. Lee describes this as "a more evolved dining experience."
The tip to managing Niu is to walk all the way to the far end and start there. The selection is one long stretch, and as you make your way to the back, you can survey what you want and plan a strategy. Heavier pizzas and pastas and that prized foie gras can be found here, alongside the carving station which is glistening with a market of meats-turkey, prime rib, lamb, chicken, ribs. There's a remarkable Salmon Coulibiac that almost looks too pretty to eat and a crisp and juicy Belly-chon that resembles porchetta.
Now who wants to be the first person to break this beauty?
Ready to be cooked
Raw meats are displayed in the grill area, waiting to be cooked fresh upon order for maximum flavor and texture. The beef medallions are tender and blanketed in salty bacon; the salmon is fresh and earthy in the way only the pink fish can make so delicious. This is one of those stations that really drives home Lee's idea of a new kind of dining experience. Instead of you having to come back for it, the servers bring the cooked order to your table, with more flair than you imagined: swirly sauces, garnish, the works.
An option from the Filipino side of the buffet
Tasty shrimps that thankfully don’t need to be peeled!
See the green cheese peeking out?
As far as culinary geography is concerned, Niu is reasonably well traveled. Tikka masala, kofta balls, and beef rendang share space with Yorkshire pudding, New Zealand style lamb, and Crispy Pork Binagoongan. The shelf of cheeses amuses with a bright green Dutch one that's flavored with pesto, and there's more than enough variety of sashimi (maguro, ebi, ika, shake, kani, et cetera) to satisfy. Lee is especially proud of the Chinese section. The chef, he says, hails from Hong Kong and knows his way around Chinese flavors, particularly Cantonese. Chef Kavino Lau’s talents in the kitchen have long been proven, and from the Lechon Macau, with its crackly tan skin covering stringy layers of melting fat and succulent white meat, the Chinese may very well be our favorite as well.
Desserts, including Filipino kakanin
Niu is Nordic for "nine," which, from the restaurant's position on the highest floor of SM Aura, is their interpretation of being on cloud nine. Trust us, the copious amounts of foie gras you'll be having will only help simulate that feeling.
Niu By Vikings is priced at P1,088+ (weekday lunch) and P1,388+ (dinner, weekends, holidays). Kids’ rates are P288 to P688.