Episode 63: Joining The Food Club – Of taking out obscene amounts of five-star quality food

“A new buffet restaurant has opened along Macapagal Boulevard in Pasay. It’s called The Food Club, and it boasts of a five-star experience that can satisfy any discriminating buffet aficionado. Word of mouth and other bloggers have attested to the quality of its wide selection of dishes. But does it really live up to the hype?
THIS IS AN EMERGENCY OPERATION! GET GOING!”
…Is how I ended up at the doorstep of The Food Club that night as I joined the hundreds of diners who visited the place on its soft opening.

After waiting for a few hours for the opening (and getting addressed as “Miss” in front of everyone), it was time for my solo raid at The Food Club. I’ve dined in a lot of buffet restaurants around Metro Manila, so what makes The Food Club different from the rest?
While it looks like nothing more than a plain building from the outside, The Food Club’s interior gives off the ambience of a five-star hotel dining area. One is ushered in to a warm, relaxing atmosphere not far from a typical family restaurant, only classier.
The whole place can accommodate about 150 guests, and it’s spacious enough for anyone to move around from station to station. Reservations are hard to come by, though, so you’d be very lucky to be able to have a seat as a walk-in customer.
The food is continuously refilled so one is assured that the dishes they get are always fresh out of the kitchen. The exception would be the seafood area, which would require a bit of patience; seafood is, understandably, harder to prepare after all.
I’ve been shown a five-star quality ambience, but is the food five-star quality as well? There’s only one way to find out.
First to take note of are the assorted furai and tempura in the Japanese section. They get refilled the fastest since it seems everyone likes the tempura. There’s also some warm miso soup, with separate containers for tofu, nori, and other soup condiments.
The neighboring table houses various Chinese favorites such as their own selection of cold cuts and dimsum. There’s a whole roasted duck hanging at one corner of the area for those interested.
And then there’s the jellyfish. “In the name of the thousands of humans that you and your kind have stung and killed, I will take vengeance! Mmm, chewy.”
DYI and prepared salads are aplenty, along with the ham and other cold cuts, breads, sashimi and sushi served as appetizers. I spotted a couple who ordered temaki (hand-rolled sushi); I should have gotten some.
You can toast your own bread, throw in some jam and cheese, pair them up with your cold cut of choice, and behold! European appetizers! Also noteworthy are the naan bread and dips in the Asian section, cold and tasty and comforting in the stomach.
Speaking of the Asian section, one can enjoy Filipino favorites such as kare-kare and tinola, the typical Mongolian rice bowl, chicken kebab, fried fish with assorted sauces and spices, curries, and stews, among others.
The area I refer to as the European section is a meat-and-potato lover’s paradise. (They have pilaf rice, though.) Beef and chicken dishes are aplenty. I spotted two varieties of potato sidings at one part of the table too.

Then there’s the steak. One can spot the chef preparing big slabs of medium-rare beef and turkey for the hungrier protein lovers in the restaurant. Which now leads me to question why people love to have their meat well-done, when medium-rare is tasty, juicy, and kinda addicting, but I digress.

You can have your seafood of choice baked at the European section. Just give them your plate and a spare one just in case, and they’ll hand you back a plateful of your baked seafood of choice warm, toasted oyster, mussel, or crab topped with melted cheese. (If you feel like it, though, just pick up some oysters and eat them raw for some pure, sea-salty, unadulterated bliss.) Where’s the prawns and lobster, you ask? I got none, unfortunately.
Once you’re done with the main courses, the dessert area would be the most logical place to see. You may get overwhelmed, though, by the large selection of cakes and sweets waiting for you. The more health-conscious people may opt for the fruits, candies or the fondue. Or all of the above. Your mileage may vary. The dessert section also has ice cream, crepes, and Filipino kakanin for those who want their sweets heavier.
Drinks consist of juices, coffee, soda, and beer.  I believe they serve other liquor but I didn’t bother to ask; I’m driving, after all.
The Food Club didn’t pull any punches when they said they’re serving hotel-quality meals. Everything I’ve seen so far in the hotels I dined in, I’ve seen as well here. The difference is the price, which is at the level of other pricey buffet restaurants in Metro Manila, but it’s all worth it.
Price List
Mondays – Thursdays:
*Lunch – P800.00 + 5% service charge
*Dinner – P1,000.00 + 5% service charge
*Kids above 3.5 ft. – P580.00 + 5% service charge
**Kids 3.5 ft. and below – FREE
Fridays – Sundays: 
*Lunch / Dinner – P1,188.00 + 5% service charge
*Kids above 3.5 ft. – P600.00 + 5% service charge
**Kids 3.5 ft. and below – FREE

 

All in all, The Food Club is, so far, your best alternative to the more crowded and pricier buffets around the metropolis. It’s like getting a crash course in classy food raiding, without hurting your budget.
Which now leads to the more pressing question: how much did I enjoy my dinner at The Food Club? Let’s just say I was able to try out a bit of everything at every station, and I can attest that it does live up to expectations. Did I mention that this raid is so sudden, I went there alone? On the flip side, the amount of food (and the number of plates) I had is so obscene for print or TV (unless I’m “Man v. Food”-era Adam Richman), instead of showing how much I vanquished, which is ridiculously plenty, I’ll just post this to drive home the point. Director’s orders.
As if this isn’t good for print or TV either.

———————————

The Food Club
Unit E Bluebaywalk
President Diosdado Macapagal corner EDSA
Pasay City, Philippines. 
Tel. no: (02) 736 8001. 
Open Monday-Sunday from 10:30 am – 10:30 pm. 
Like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter for promos and other announcements.
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Episode 62: A Tale of Two Dinners (Part 2)

January 12, 6:00pm, Sunday. Some of my college blockmates agreed to meet up over dinner, partly to bond, and partly to welcome Jelou, a fellow classmate who arrived from Canada for a vacation. Well, they always spend time together, but I digress; tonight, we’re having a reunion.

The place agreed upon was Green Pastures, located at the fourth floor of the EDSA Shangri-La East Wing. Green Pastures is the restaurant of Cyma’s Chef Robby Goco. It opened just around August last year, and is now one of the most successful restaurants in Metro Manila.

Green Pastures was filled with customers when I arrived. Of course I was prudent enough to secure a reservation. It felt painful to see how many patrons are in the restaurant, but they have a perfectly good reason to enjoy the place.

The restaurant takes pride of its organic, locally sourced, all-natural, farm-to-table cuisine. To drive home that point, it features an open kitchen setup where you can see how the food is prepared. There’s also a farmhouse-themed vertical garden.  The menu also seems to change every season. This means everything is guaranteed to be farm-fresh.

After picking up Jelou at the ground floor, we met up with Nina, a former reporter, and her husband at Green Pastures. Amer, now a teacher in Baguio, caught up with us a bit later. In the end, there were only five of us having dinner; we were expecting more of our blockmates to come.

We had to wait for a while to get seated, and a bit longer before our food arrived. That’s because, as I see it, almost everything’s made fresh and from scratch. The prevailing joke was that maybe they had to harvest the vegetables and butcher a few animals on the spot. Nevertheless, the servers, busy as they are, were accommodating and patient with us, which made the long wait more bearable.

First on the table was the January Salad, a salad with fermented tea leaves, a variety of seeds and herbs, tomatoes, and river shrimps. It’s supposedly a cleansing dish that will help detoxify our stomachs.

Next was the All’Amatriciana, pasta made with house-made passato, pancetta, red onions, pecorino, and buccatini.

Then came Roast Organic Chicken, plain and simple roast chicken on a bed of asparagus.

We also had a side order of lightly fried potato fries with cheese and a creamy garlicky dip.

For drinks, Jelou ordered a glass of Iced Tea with Organic Honey. Mine was a variation – GP Style Iced Tea, blended with ginger, apples, pears, and honey. The waiter said the GP Style Iced Tea also has cleansing properties, so I’m supposed to feel uneasy in the stomach anytime soon (I got home just in time, if you know what I mean).

For dessert, we tried out the Milkeggshoney, organic white honeycomb topped with citrusy-sweet curd and Greek yogurt. It’s sweet, creamy, and crunchy, but then you have to have a bit of everything in a spoonful to get its full flavor.

Green Pastures has a lot of other healthy yet interesting dishes in the menu; such as the artisanal cheese, organic pork and beef and vegetarian burgers, other variations of their pasta, and duck-based dishes like the “Duck You!” (a set meal of duck fat fries, duck skin chicharon, and duck confit). Duck fat is kinda healthy and all, but for someone like me whose cholesterol level is on catastrophic levels, well… I’ll have to reconsider.

They also have organic coffee (some of which are from the Cordilleras, smoothies, and elixirs made from fresh fruits and vegetables.

It’s not surprising that Green Pastures is a popular restaurant. It provides a great breather from the usual heavy, filling restaurant fare. In a time when “healthy living” also means dining healthy and sensibly, organic foods are at the forefront most of the time. Fresh meat, seafood, and produce have been the best choice for those who would like to fill themselves up with taking in too much oil and preservatives.

Come to think of it though, healthy dining becomes a norm every January, or at least a few weeks after Christmas and New Year, when we’ve had enough of alcohol, meat, and other heavy holiday fare. This must be why organic food, like gym memberships, becomes a hot item around this time. Here’s hoping it’s not the case.

As for me, who fattened myself with the world-wide raid at Spiral, I’ll have to be on the lookout for places like Green Pastures. I gotta remind myself often to eat less and sensibly, and get something healthy to keep my body in fit shape.

After everyone took their leave and went home, I sent a quick message to Jelou, asking her how she’s doing. I was really glad to see her, after all.

Jelou said she’ll stay with her folks for a while, and then stay again in Manila for a few days before leaving for Canada again. I replied (non-verbatim), “We should call for out other blockmates and go out again. Even if it ends up with just the two of us going out, it will surely be fine.”

To this day, she never texted back. (Cue canned laughter, extend by five, cue clapping, cross-fade to Sting’s “Everybody Laughed But You”)

Episode 62: A Tale of Two Dinners (Part 1)

January 6, 4:30 pm, Monday. The waitress had brought my pitcher of draft beer and nachos as I set up my laptop. I was right to hang out at Snaps, the sports bar of Sofitel Manila to pass the time. Only a few patrons were present, quietly sipping their drinks and watching the sports shows on the screens around the place. It was cool, quiet, surprisingly a good place to work in.

In about two hours, I would be meeting my brother MC and some of my relatives over dinner at Spiral, Sofitel’s famed buffet restaurant.  This is my first major food raid for this year.

My relatives – Kuya Joel, Ate Jenette and her husband Rex, and Tita Alice (our aunt from Canada) arrived at Snaps at about 6:30pm. It was a rather sober meeting – my aunt had died just this New Year’s Day – but a good night-out seemed to be a nice way to close the ordeal in a light and positive note.  It’s been, after all, a long time since we got together.

It’s been a long while since I last tried out hotel cuisine (the last one was at Century Park Hotel), so seeing Spiral was a nice sight. Much has been said about Spiral after it reopened months ago (it was closed down for repairs), and everyone is singing praises about its wide selection of dishes, world-class cuisine and ambience and such. So many bloggers have dined here. I was, as always, late for the party, so to speak. But dine at Spiral I have waited to do, and dine there I will.

Each main cuisine has its own area at Spiral. That means if you’re a fan of Japanese, Indian, or French cuisine, there’s a table full of the stuff you want waiting for you. It feels like you’re about to take on the whole world.

The first area in Spiral to fall in our world-wide raid was the Japanese cuisine table. There’s so much sushi and sashimi to choose from, among others. I went after those first.

Next were the Chinese dishes – a bowl of spicy noodles here, a few dimsum there.

While trying out the French cuisine area, a strange dish made its way to our table, courtesy of MC – foie gras, fatty duck liver. It was juicy, well-cooked, partly buttery and gelatinous and bursting with fat. Every bite felt heavenly, never mind that pure duck fat was swimming in my palate and into my veins. No wonder foie gras is a gastronomical treasure for the French.

By the way, MC and I knew of the (rather) cruel history behind this dish, and why animal rights groups hate it. Specially fattened geese or ducks are used to prepare foie gras, but it’s said that these birds are force-fed with a gavage until their livers grow fat. There are allegedly more humane ways to fatten the bird, such as natural feeding or the use of less cruel-looking implements. This is frowned upon by the French, who, to their defense, claim gavage-fed fat birds produce better foie gras. But I digress.

Next on the line-up are the Indian and Asian dishes. I couldn’t get as much as I want, and by this time I‘m already getting dirty looks, so I settled with chicken curry, grilled meats, baked mussel, basmati rice, and kimchi.

Breads and cheeses were aplenty. As far as I know, cheeses always go well with wine and bread, but this time, there won’t be any wine. But no matter. I feel sorry that I was not able to take not of what the cheeses being served are. It would have made for good material in case I attend a wine pairing event.

Then came the grilled dishes.  I forgot to take pictures, but well, salmon is luv.

Now if there’s one thing in Spiral that impressed me, it’s their wide selection of seafood. Lobsters, oysters, prawns, fishes… they’re all there. Had I planned this dinner earlier, I would have gone from a “see food” diet to a seafood diet.

Finally, there were the desserts. Seriously, I lost count of all the sweets I ate. I tried out the rum-infused cake, the crème brulee, the various chocolate bits, the fondues, the cakes… Let’s just say my doctor is going to kill me outright if he found out about this adventure. Too late.

There’s a bar inside Spiral for those who want to cap this dining experience. Patrons can also buy and take home specially prepared food baskets.

After filling ourselves up, we took a walk around Sofitel’s seawall along Manila Bay. The horizon was nearly dark, if not for the lights of the theme park and the ports on the horizon. MC says the place commands a spectacular view of the sunset, and that visitors would gather to hang out, sip champagne, listen to music, or spend a romantic afternoon.

The dinner at Spiral was meaningful as it was also a reunion of sorts for us. Having a sumptuous meal in such a classy establishment, and savoring the taste of every major cuisine in the world definitely made for a great family experience.

As for me, it was something like my way to compensate for a very dull Christmas and New Year. I spent the holidays writing, marathoning anime, and working on my usual news programs, so I say an all-you-can-eat raid is a fitting reward.

On the other hand, I think I ended up overposting through Instagram that night. C’mon, challenging every station at Spiral felt like a campaign to conquer the world, and I think I did a pretty good job.

In any case, dining at Spiral felt like a great way to start the year. Now what’s left to do is join the bandwagon of people cleansing their systems after the holidays.

Thus Came 2014

Happy new year!

Yeah, I know it’s too late to make a New Year greeting by now, but I’m greeting you just the same. I trust that 2014 started for you all very smoothly, and you’re looking forward to so many good things in the coming days.

I promised that you won’t be seeing less of me this year, despite me getting busy with a lot of things and being unable to write for the blog in the past few months.

How should I put this… I am still busy working on my future and all, but on the flip side, I have a lot to look forward to as well, and a lot of interesting things have happened since I last posted here.

Let’s start with that nice little picture we have here. Let me explain.

My first news is that I lost a writing job on the first day of 2014, but let’s not dwell on that. You see, for several months, I work a full day shift on weekdays, but now I have the rest of the afternoon off. That picture above? It was taken at Snaps, the sports bar of Sofitel Manila. That should be enough to tease what I did in the first few days of the new year. (And yes, that’s Haruki and Kazusa from “White Album 2” sucking face on my screen, for you anime fans there. Watch that series. I marathoned it last Christmas. It’s GOOD.)

Since I have the afternoon off, I have made some progress with my book. Actually I’m still at Chapter 4 (out of 13 or 14 chapters that I’m planning), but I assure you that I’m working on this faster than before. Then again, I’m currently on a slump, so writing for this blog takes top priority. Still, I’m kinda confident I’ll be able to finish my book. (Don’t mind the cheap cover; it’s just a sample. I’ll make a better one soon.)

Second, I opened an Instagram account for Unlimited Grub Grabs. I mentioned before that I get to eat out a lot and find things to write about for the blog once in a while, but I couldn’t make time for it. Well, having an Instagram account where my food pictures could be posted looks really helpful. And yes, that’s Buddha in my profile pic. I like that picture so much.

My only problem is that my account is linked only to my Facebook and Twitter accounts. I’m still figuring out a way to be able to post my Instagram pictures on the UGG Facebook page. #lazy

You can follow my Instagram account here: http://instagram.com/unlimitedgrubgrabs

Third, Unlimited Grub Grabs now has its own Youtube channel! So far it only has some music videos that I made partly for my enjoyment, and partly to train myself in video editing. I’ve been practicing with Windows Movie Maker and VideoPad Video Editor, but at the moment I don’t have the proper file converters, nor good editing programs that could help me see the videos I envision come to life.

If I’m able to get all the stuff I need, I just might be able to make my own show instead of just music videos. Who knows, next time, you’ll see my food adventures on screen (actually, that’s the plan)!

My Youtube account is: http://www.youtube.com/user/UnlimitedGrubGrabs. For now, here’s a sample of my work:

That music video was something I was working on while I was at Snaps. I’m making use of the extra time I gained to learn new things, and it has been very exciting.

Now then, here’s to a new year filled with good food, greater knowledge, breath-taking places, and new adventures. See you all soon!