First Impressions Always Last

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

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