Dessert Comes First

An obsession with dessert and other unabashed opinions of a food writer

Magnum White King

First Impressions Always Last

posted by in Continental, Restaurants

My buffet of choice in Manila.

I’m not a fan of buffets: I get paralyzed at the sight of massive excess and variety. Buffets also bring out the snob in me. I tend to judge people by what (and how much!) they put on their plates and I watch in thinly-veiled disgust as they shovel it all in. Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for gluttony, but in my experience, buffets tend to bring out barbaric eating and atrocious table manners, and that I can’t stand. Like I said, it’s the snob in me.

So when H+K, a couple whom my Bin and I often have dinner with invite us to Impressions, I’m wary. We share the same sentiments about buffets, choosing a la carte every time. I read recently about Spirals re-opening very soon with what they’ve dubbed as “21 eating ateliers,” and the concept, while thrilling to some, absolutely terrifies me. H understands my hesitation and says, “The Impressions buffet is really small, more about quality over quantity.”

He couldn’t have said it better.

Impressions, located at the third floor of the Maxims Hotel, is slightly difficult to find since I’m more familiar with the Marriott. A fine dining restaurant during the week helmed by Chef Cyrille Soenen of Ciçou fame, Impressions loosens up at week’s end with their Gourmet Sunday Brunch. It’s a small place and from where I’m seated, I can see the entire restaurant, end to end.

There are only four stations, a stunningly paltry amount it might seem for those who are used to more. But the selection offered by each station is impeccable both in choice and quality. The Charcuterie offers European cured meats, olives, various flatbreads and buns, hummus, churned butter, and jams from The Fruit Garden. I make up my mind, then mix and match.

Right beside Charcuterie is Le Fromage, which is my favorite section of all. Here, cheeses that gratefully deviate from the common offerings in Manila’s buffets are laid out: Blue Stilton, St. Nectaire, Roquefort, Goat’s Milk Ricotta, etc., are accompanied with nuts, dried fruit, and the most exquisite local honey I’ve ever tried, something produced (again) by The Fruit Garden. I make a mental note to buy a bottle of that honey.

The Cold Station includes chilled seafood such as oysters, clams, scallops, and shrimp. Eat as is or do as I do and ask the chefs to bake up the crustaceans with some parsley-butter sauce. Interact with the chefs and tell them what you want. They’re very knowledgeable and helpful.

What’s astounding to me is that the Cold Station offers caviar (pair them with the blinis and sour cream), uni, and unbelievably, all-you-can-eat foie gras! The chef asks how many I want and I’m momentarily speechless. “Um, two, chef?” I gulp. Two perfect slices of slightly seared foie gras are served at my table together with a salad of arugula and greens laced in a slightly acidic dressing, to counter the cloy of the foie. I’m happy with just this, truly. And dessert of course.

I admit to glossing over the Hot Station where various cuts of meat are grilled or seared upon order. An entire Prime Rib Roast holds court over all along with a Short Plate of Beef, Ribs, Lamb Chops, duck breast, a leg of ham, a roasted chicken – I don’t think I even see everything that’s on offer. In addition, a medley of sauces to cosset my choice of meats is available and even Yorkshire Pudding. This meat lover loves it all.

This is my pre-dessert dessert, a plate of goat’s milk ricotta glazed with some of that outstanding honey. Thick and fluid, the amber liquid runs down the cheese, two delicate flavors melding into sweet and creamy with an afterthought of truffle. Mmm.

Dessert is my smallest course. Even I, mistress of dessert, concede defeat to the courses that have come before it. The gelato mustn’t be looked over, have the peanut butter (seen in photo) and the hazelnut. I top my gelato with a macaron and marvel at the way its sticky chewiness partners well with the sweet chill. The chocolate fondue (milk chocolate when I’m here, though sometimes it’s white chocolate) isn’t oily and off-putting, it really tastes like pure liquid chocolate. I drink some from a tiny shooter glass and nibble on the truffles I’ve placed on my plate.

Ohhh, how I eat my words. The Impressions buffet is small, select, and of unsurpassed quality. If all buffets could be like this, I might be a convert to buffets after all.

Gourmet Sunday Brunch at Impressions Restaurant
P 1,800++
Every Sunday, 11am – 3pm
3/F Maxims Hotel, Resorts World Manila
02 908 8888 / 8000

14 Responses to “First Impressions Always Last”

  • Thanks for the tip. I also abhor buffets, too much food. I will be sure to try the Impressions mini buffet.


  • Lori, Impressions is amazing, and has become my all time favorite buffet of choice in Manila as well. So happy you loved it, too. I was absolutely floored. Quality over quantity wins–hands down–every single time.

    I’m enamored by The Fruit Garden as well, and you can actually purchase their jams & honey online for delivery at Speed Regalo, in case you were interested. :)


    Lori Reply:

    Regine Rafael-
    So agree with you! Floored I was too. Thanks for the tip about the Fruit Garden. That honey of theirs is exquisite.



  • I will try out Impressions buffet!


    Lori Reply:

    I’ll go with you! :p


  • I’ve been waiting for your post about this gem of a place! Now I have more reasons to try it! Thank you so much Lori! :D


  • oh, lori! you make me wanna come home to manila with your blog.


  • Wow. THIS is the buffet for me. Went to another famous buffet and I ate nothing else but caviar, oysters, and different gourmet spreads. I will definitely try Impressions. I wonder if they have sour dough bread. Thanks Lori!


  • Thanks for the tip Lori!

    Now I know where my hubby and I can celebrate his upcoming birthday. The selection looks superb. Quality indeed!


  • I had dinner at CiCou last Wednesday and Cyrille failed to mention that Impressions already has a buffet on Sundays! Have eaten there once and I MUST get out of Makati and make my way to Maxim’s again for this! Thanks for sharing Lori.

    Warm regards!



  • I’ve been hearing about this buffet for some time and have been wanting to go, for precisely the same reasons you mention. I like that you can have food cooked upon order (just like the breakfast buffet at Cicou when it was still in Makati), that there aren’t too many stations, and that, they say, the desserts are actually quite good. (Not a fan of most hotel buffet desserts.) And of course, the idea of foie in a buffet ALWAYS gets me! :-D My family’s been planning a trip there soon (did you know kids under 12 eat free?!), and after I show them this post, I think it will be even sooner! :-D


  • You got me at the goat’s milk ricotta + honey!


  • I just ate there last sunday lori!! I 100% agree with you. Quality over quantity. This is the best buffet for me, and my family and I have been making the rounds! The foie gras alone makes it THE one. :)


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