eenie, meenie, miney mo…
I didn’t expect my post on EDSA Shangri-la’s HEAT to trigger several comments and email inquiries about my opinions regarding the different hotel buffets. Although this is my blog and I make my preferences very clear, what I give out is information only for those people who want it. It’s never been my intention to foist what I think on anybody. After all, I respect the readers of this blog as well as their intelligence, especially when it comes to knowing where and what to eat.
Having said that, because many people asked, I’ve decided to write my opinions about hotel buffets and offer a few suggestions. Please keep in mind that these are my opinions only, and are not representative of the people I mention in this post.
- It’s all about interaction
This “new” trend of hotel restaurants to convert from the chafing dishes of yore and revert to the theater kitchens/live stations/open kitchens we see now is actually more than 10 years old. Hotels in Manila generally concede that Paseo Uno at the Mandarin was the first to offer this sort of buffet. After talking with the F&B (Food and Beverage) managers of both the EDSA Shangri-la and the Makati Shangri-la, it’s clear to me that these theater kitchens (my preferred term) are a natural progression of the business. The way food was presented then was not up to the latest standard. Dining nowadays is all about interaction and involving the five senses.
Theater kitchens empower the diner, but it’s up to you to interact with the chef behind the station: ask him/her if they have the sushi you want (if I don’t see any uni sushi, I always ask because it’s my favorite.) Indicate that you’d like to customize your pizza instead of getting one from the (oh, yes) chafing dish, or say, “I’d like a thick slice of that prime rib with the most fat, please.”
- Dinner really is more expensive
All these hotel buffets have up to three menu cycles that are rotated. This is to ensure variety in what’s offered and it also keeps the chefs sharp and on top of their game. Nothing will dull minds (theirs) and taste buds (ours) like complacency. Naturally some ultra-popular dishes (smoked salmon, the carvery, etc.) are like good hair days ”“ they’re almost always there, but try something else if they’re not.
a favorite at HEAT: smoked salmon-spinach salad
- The lunch service is punctuated with frenzied business meetings and those “ladies who lunch,” so it doesn’t carry as hefty a price tag as dinner. Restaurants consider dinner the time when people can actually dine at leisure, and rightly so. It all boils down to time, which is the great common denominator. As a result, extra special foods are offered for dinner, such as but not limited to grilled items, a wider selection of seafood, and more desserts (oh, yeah).
Circles or Heat?
This is the question I’ve gotten asked the most since I posted my article on HEAT. Here’s what I have to say, at the risk of inflaming loyalists of either restaurant.
Circles is more chaotic I feel, since it’s one large eating room. Thus, the noise level is decidedly high, and it’s impossible for me to feel like I’m having a relaxed meal. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, since there are days when I’m quite hyper myself. But on the days I’m feeling mellow, then HEAT it is. The expansive dining room and dining cluster areas provide a more “secluded” eating experience.
I’ll be straight with you: HEAT has a teppanyaki ice cream section that I’m quite enamored with. The ice cream is velvety smooth, the way I expect ice cream to be. Their chocolate fountains actually taste like chocolate and not oil. (Oil is added to any chocolate fountain mixture to make it more free-flowing.) HEAT’s cakes are also worth mentioning, especially the cheesecake. If you read this blog regularly, then you’re already aware of my position that dessert is THE main course and everything else is secondary.
Given that, I think that Circles has a wider food selection even though they have fewer open kitchens than HEAT. Circles has dishes that I keep going back to, like the cod in cream sauce, the spectacular Indian section, the roasted duck from the Chinese kitchen, the risotto, and the seemingly endless strips of smoked salmon. And how can I forget that stellar flourless chocolate cake?
So. Dinner at Circles and dessert at Heat.