Happy New Year!

Ah, 2010. The year of the Metal Tiger, that’s what astrologers call it. They say the Tiger will inspire everyone do be courageous, take risks, do bold and daring actions in a tumultous time.

And what a tumultous time this will be! Elections are coming this May, Mayon Volcano is keeping everyone on their toes, unsolved cases abound, and who knows what personal problems will beset us this year.

In light with this, I realized that for the rest of 2009 since my last post, I haven’t been eating out or going out so much, with time and budget constraints pulling me down. Plus, a lot of… well, things, have happened since the last few weeks, keeping me away from this blog and my food adventures.

The new year holds a lot of promise for me. Surely there are lots of places to visit, dishes and drinks to taste, music and scenes to enjoy… Who knows, maybe there’s a life lesson or two meant for me and everyone who will journey with me throughout 2010.

With this, I thank you for visiting this young blog. I hope you join me as I discover new restaurants, watering holes, and whatnots, and enjoy good food and wine as I always hope to do. Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a hot meal and a cocktail waiting for me somewhere…

Happy new year!
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Episode 3: Extreme Dining in Style! Cafe in the Park Beckons!

My brother MC texted me just a few weeks ago. “Come join me for a buffet dinner,” he said. MC told me that he got a gift certificate at Café in the Park. I readily agreed, and we decided to meet on a Sunday, the day when Manny Pacquiao pummeled Miguel Cotto like an over-ripe tomato.

Let me give you an idea of what Café in the Park is. Café in the Park is one of the outlets of Century Park Hotel, also where MC works as a receptionist. CPH, as my brother would call it, is a business hotel in Manila, about seven kilometers away from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, several kilometers more away from Makati, a few minutes away from Malate… Wait.

Café in the Park specializes in breakfast, lunch, and dinner buffets, although it also boasts of an “equally mouthwatering” a la carte menu (which I haven’t tried).
This would be the second time I dined in Café in the Park. The first time was a year ago, when two of our family friends had their honeymoon at CPH. What we had was a really good feast, although I had to dodge the dagger looks of my dad and mom as I ate (we had an eat all you can dinner buffet).
The restaurant’s buffet consists of samples of international cuisine, all of which are enticing and delicious in their own right. Too delicious though. Let me repeat, I’m talking about an eat all you can buffet here.
The first we sampled were the rice and soups. We had “sinigang na baboy” and crab and corn soup for starters, followed by some rice – there were two varieties of these, which is the steamed rice and seafood fried rice. Right beside the rice are several other dishes such as kalderetang baka, mashed potatoes, and fish fillet.
In one corner of the buffet area are the Chinese dishes. We tried the assorted dimsum (we had meat buns and different kinds of siomai), lemon chicken, and the lo mai chi (a sweet dessert with coconut).
On one side of the main table is a shelf filled with raw chicken, fish, shrimp, and crab. One can get his meat of choice and have it cooked accordingly. Believe it or not, the meats get cooked really fast. By the way, you can also order roast beef cooked according to your preferences (medium rare, if you please). They are roasted just as quick and served with gravy.
Just beside the raw meats is the salad station. While I’m not entirely a fan of salads, it’s interesting to note that the salad ingredients smell and look fresh, and you can throw in whatever you find suitable. I regret not trying the salads.
The next area – my most favorite – is the Japanese section. This section has samples of sashimi and maki from Century Tsukiji, another outlet in CPH. While I was looking at the salmon sashimi, my mind was chanting “salmon is luv, salmon is luv” and decided to give in.
Right after attacking the shrimps, the sashimi and maki, we headed to what must be the European section of the table. This has different kinds of bread and cold cuts like ham and spreads. I was, however, only interested in the century egg, since I already had lots of rice.
In the middle of the heavy meal, one of the waiters brought us some cakes, courtesy of Century Park’s Deli Snack bakeshop. We were also treated to fruit crepes with ice cream. Speaking of dessert, the buffet does have dessert – chocolate and fruit cakes, pastries, and even Filipino treats like puto bumbong. No cake for you, Kero-chan… Sorry.
We only had an hour or so to eat, so the dishes we had brought to the table disappeared quickly, and why not. The dimsum are hot and filling, the roasted chicken, salmon and shrimp are lightly flavored but juicy. The sashimi and maki are fresh and tasty, hands down.
The roast beef was the biggest challenge of all – thick, juicy, savory, but really tough to slice and tear through. Ripping the damn beef slab with your teeth is overrated, but it works and adds to the enjoyment.
Eventually, MC had to go back to work, and I was too bloated to eat dessert. I could have eaten more, especially the steak and what’s left of the cakes, but I decided otherwise. Too bad.
Dining in Café in the Park is my first crash course into the world of hotel cuisine. While I’m unsure of which dish is which at first, it’s obvious that I experienced some of the best that Century Park Hotel has to offer in hospitality, fine dining and international flavor. Never mind that it cost a lot, everything we had were all delicious after all.
Eating in a hotel restaurant, admittedly, is a good experience. Being in a high-class establishment shows how meticulous people can be in preparing a dish, making it pleasing to the eye and enticing to the nose and palate, and serving them to discriminating customers.
A good quote from the J-dorama “Kuitan” comes to mind: “For the people who grew the vegetables, for the people who cooked the meals, and the lives… We have to thank all of those when we eat.” This is why I am thankful to having been pampered and served really great food in Café in the Park.
As for MC, well, I just want you to know that I’ve had the best eat all you can buffet dinner ever in the history of hotel cuisine. Thanks, bro.