I’ve said this before, and I say it again, it’s difficult for me to be impressed with Filipino food, the primary culprits being my Kapampangan heritage and the amaaazing home cooks I grew up with. Ask Kite what my default answer is when faced with the question “Where do you want to eat?“. Yep, you guessed it right. Most of the times, it’s going to be “Anywhere but Pinoy cuisine please.“.
Now haters, don’t get me wrong. The Philippines offers some of the best cooking in the world, and a lot of great press (from international sources at that) have been accorded to it of late. I looove Filipino food, but, and this is a big BUT, it has to be at a level beyond how my mom or my lolas cooked it. That, or it has to be something new to my palate. If someone I know can make it better than the plated ones you serve before me, well, you can forget about it. (Boom! Such a snob!)
At times though, I encounter restaurants that offer dishes like the one pictured below that make me re-consider:
Repeat after me: foie gras sisig. Deeeeeym.
Foie gras? In sisig? It makes so much sense and is so spot on that you’d ask yourself why you didn’t think of it before. I know I did.
The restaurant behind the genius creation? F All Day Dining at F1 Hotel Manila. Newly revamped and with its offerings overhauled, it is now under the helm of Chef Sau Del Rosario. O ha, huma-high profile. Haha! Kite, fourteen other family members (Talk about being a part of a Filipino family eh? Sooo Pinoy talaga.) and I had dinner there one fine Sunday night to celebrate the mother-in-law’s birthday. Below’s how my second buffet (and the in-laws’ first) of the year fared.
Expectations were high before setting foot at F1, and it didn’t disappoint. It was a relatively new hotel after all and everything was still in tip-top shape. There were even some attention grabbing pieces at the lobby fronting F. As for the restaurant itself, I really dig the good use of space. I believe it’s the first hotel buffet I came across with where I didn’t feel I have to weave in and out to navigate the different stations. There was ample room to move around without bumping into fellow diners too. Seating wise, the window-side tables are the best of the house what with its good view, comfortable shared couches and beautiful solo seats. I recommend staying away from the side farthest the entrance – the bland space looked sad to me.
This grabbed almost everyone’s attention. For me, it was interesting primarily because I don’t think I’ve seen something like it before. But then again, I’m not the furniture connoisseur in the first place.
While most will see this as “Ahh, limited offerings…”, my take on this is “Yey! Space!”
Do yourself a favor and reserve the tables by the windows. If you come in during the time we did, you’d have terrific, romantic, soft lighting. The skyline view at night isn’t that shabby too.
Compare the variety of food that F serves to that of Heat or Spiral, and one would easily be disappointed. I’d go out on a limb and say that it is unfair as comparisons go, though. First, F’s is significantly waaay cheaper (by price, that is) compared to the bigger, more established hotel buffets. Second, the quality outweighs and makes up for the lack in quantity, as we soon found out. I’d be screaming my head off (well, not really, but you get the point) if I heard people around me say “Kaunti na nga, di pa masarap“. Fortunately, there was none of that. :-)
Oh! One thing that needs to be mentioned is we feasted on the Luzviminda buffet they have running for the whole of June, the month when the country celebrates its independence from Spain. (That’s today by the way! Happy Independence Day Pilipinas!). The theme carries over from the appetizers, to the mains, and up to the desserts and celebrates Filipino cuisine from the three major regions of the country – Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. That being said, I assume the menu will vary come July, so heads up. :-)
A humongous yellow fin (I think) tuna commanding the centerpiece of the salads and appetizers stations. Nice touch!
This one triggered nostalgia. Haven’t seen this dish in a long while! Steamed fish like this, replete with its colorful toppings, used to be a staple in celebrations of the past. Coolio.
Now here’s something you don’t see often (or at all!) at hotel restos: Pinoy candies! I didn’t touch any of this, but it was an inspired addition to the themed buffet.
This too! When’s the last time you saw rambutan and dalanghita served in a restaurant? Never? I thought so too. :-P
The LuzViMin theme carries over to the cheeses as well. Happy to see these varieties which I read have been flown from a cheese farm in Davao.
Finally, without further ado, presenting the five plates I had that night. I won’t even apologize this time. Long-time readers would know I’ve got the skills to handle buffets like this one, and a cooperative tummy to boot. :-P
Plate 1: Salmon, tuna, mussels, and shrimps
Plate 2: Baked mussels, embutido, and cheese (blue, goat, chevre and puti)
Plate 3: Shrimp and brocolli, bagnet, and foie gras sisig
Plate 4: Kambing sa langka, mahi mahi with tausi, BBQ ribs, and habechuelas
Plate 5: Durian panna cotta and leche flan
The verdict? Congratulations! Way more hits than misses!
1. Foie gras sisig, hands-down, is the star of the night. It is the best sisig I have ever eaten. So sinful, so rich, so umami-filled (minus the MSG I hope), I really fell in love with this dish. A close second would be the habechuelas – the love child of mashed potatoes (for its texture) and pork and beans (well, because it is made of white beans and bacon). Other stand-outs were the fat and juicy mussels (both the steamed and baked ones), plump shrimps (again, both boiled and those mixed in with brocolli) and the tender kambing sa langka (goat stew). Loved all of it!
2. The thumbs down for me came from the bagnet. I think what can be faulted though is the cut I got, and the time the meat has been sitting around. Another thing we sorely missed was the lechon. The buffet would’ve really rocked if that was present.
3. The desserts were a bit polarizing. The leche flan (please stop calling it creme brulee if it doesn’t have a crackly caramel top!) was perfect: thick custard with a lovely mouthfeel and an appropriate level of sweetness that even seniors in the group liked. The durian panna cotta, on the other hand, was a different case. Only Kite and I liked it. Truth be told, they should’ve called it shooters or shots instead of panna cotta. It was too liquid to be called the latter.
4. Service was fantastic. Two dishes got alternated at one point (chicken inasal and barbecued ribs) and I asked if there were still some left for the one I preferred. The lovely lady not only asked people from the kitchen, she even went out of her way to get some for me on a plate instead of just telling me that yes, it’s sill going to be served later. Good stuff. :-)
Do I think it’s worth the price tag? Considering the novelty of key dishes, the general flavorful-ness (wow, did I just invent a word?) of the food and the fabulous service, I’d say yes. It helps that the in-laws gave their seal of approval as well. Woot! If you’re not sold on the idea of paying for ~1,400.00 PHP for this though (No judgment, I’m stingy too. :-P), you might want to check out Deal Grocer ASAP. They’re offering it at ~900.00 PHP and I am telling you, that is a steal.
F1 Hotel Manila
32nd Street, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City
Telephone: +632 928 9888, +632 908 7888