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Learning the art of buffet in Manila


When an already award winning restaurant has been dubbed Asia’s best buffet, GAYA AVERY knows it must be approached with near military precision and takes guidance from Sun Tzu’s Art of War. Because surely this is the buffet to end all buffets.

 

 

There are buffets and then there’s Spiral at Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila. This award winning restaurant measures some 2,500 square metres and is actually 21 individual restaurants, or ateliers. In France, an atelier is an artist’s studio or workshop in which pieces of fine art are created. In Spiral, it is where a specialty chef prepares dishes of fine food next to 20 other chefs doing the same thing. Spiral simply saves you the inconvenience of travelling to 21 different top restaurants and puts them all under one beautiful roof.

 

Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.

I am no stranger to a buffet and took lessons from a great master. My mother, when approaching a Chinese one plate buffet (they were all the rage in the 80s food courts), would explain to me the importance of first building a spring roll retaining wall to turn your plate into a bowl and then  filling it with first the lighter dishes, saving the heavier for the top to push it all down. 

 

The rookies among us start straight away, but I walk the restaurant’s length and breadth noting down the dishes I must try and which must be sacrificed. I return to the table with nothing, request some sparkling water and the waiter’s suggested plan of attack. 

 

 

Her way is this:  

  • Salad
  • Seafood from L’ecailler
  • Sushi and sashimi
  • Hot Japanese
  • Pasta 
  • Soup
  • Meat from Rotisserie
  • A visit to Wood-Fired Oven
  • Prime rib from Churrasco
  • North Indian 
  • Asian noodles
  • Peking duck
  • Dumplings from Steam Basket
  • Chinese wok dishes
  • Filipino local
  • Thai
  • Korean
  • La Patisserie
  • Chocolaterie
  • Creamery or a visit to the country’s only cheese room.

In the meantime, she will bring us some signature olive bread from La Boulangerie.

 

A vegetarian, my options and therefore temptations are lessened somewhat, but this is not some suburb buffet. The salads here are so delicate, the flavours so complex, I could have stayed at this station alone. But there is more (way, way more) for me so still I must plan. 

 

Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.

We’ve staked out a table near La Patisserie, for the local desserts will be our undoing. We figure that by the end of the night we will be unable to walk easily, but will still want dessert. We are right, but had not counted on Chocolaterie, a whole room devoted to the brown overlord.

 

The bread arrives and I immediately push it away. It’s delicious, says my eating partner, but I know that in this battle, my beloved carbs must be sacrificed. Except for the pasta, which haunts me still. 

 

 

Opportunities multiply as they are seized.

Soon there are more plates on our table than there are people around it. While we had expected quantity, the quality was a surprise. Who expects some of the best pasta ever had to be in Manila? To eat unique local cheese alongside specialty cheeses from Greece and Switzerland? Calling Spiral a buffet is like calling the Queen ‘some old broad’. Yes, you can eat plate after plate until the point of collapse, but the quality of what you are eating is truly superb that only one plate would be enough. Except it’s not.

 

 

If you wait by the river long enough, the bodies of your enemies will float by.

The couple beside us have out-eaten us. They arrived here before us and will be here when we go. But we are not the first to leave, defeated by too-tight pants and a late lunch. No, we have done well (though next time, I will wear a maxi dress and leave all children behind). 

 

Know this: if all else fails and you too lose in this battle, remember to choose Spiral as your last meal. Getting through all the dishes on offer will at least buy you another day.

 

Spiral is Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila’s flagship restaurant. Though open for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily, the Sunday brunch is a must for families with its cookie making classes for kids and surprising entertainment.

 

 

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Written by: Gaya Avery
Published: 29 September 2019


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