What would you say if I told you that you could have your cravings from around the world satisfied in one place?
Perhaps one of the concerns would be on quality– is the food authentic? Are the ingredients fresh? With many of the sub par international buffets, the execution tends to suffer in order to offer a competitive price. Now, if you’re going to dine in the likes of Sofitel’s Spiral, you wouldn’t have to worry so much about quality but breaking the bank.
This is why we were all pleasantly surprised that Novotel’s Food Exchange was a balance of both. Neither quality nor accessibility was compromised. My initial thoughts when surveying the buffet was that the options were authentic and well thought of. My issue with most buffets is that options are redundant (meaning, you have 3 kinds of slightly different fried rice in the Chinese section, or 7 different variations of sushi that all pretty much taste like vinegared rice with tasteless fish) While there were many options, the selection seemed to be expertly selected to provide you with the best per type of cuisine without making you feel like you only had a handful of dishes to choose from.
Now, let me take you through the sections with some highlights:
1. Chinese Section
Their chef, Allan Ming makes authentic Chinese fare for everyone to enjoy. I really enjoyed the Lechon Macau. Normally, if this dish is sliced up and put on display, the meat would eventually get tough, but surprisingly, the meat was still tender and crunchy.
The noodle station also boasts of a broth that is cooked over a period of 6-8 hours daily. Talk about tasty!
2. Japanese Station
Now, my frustration with most Japanese sections at buffets is that most of the rolls taste the same. And while the rolls at those restaurants aren’t inedible, they also aren’t really worth putting on your plate.
The Japanese section has a minimalist selection with about 6 different kinds of rolls (this may vary) but each one of the rolls has a distinct flavor profile to each of them. Also, the tamago was great! Just the right amount of sweetness on the egg– it was a delightful surprise 🙂
We were also told that the fish is brought in fresh for the restaurant, and boy did they mean it! The salmon was nice and creamy while the tuna didn’t have any trace of fishiness. Plus points since the chef at this station gives a generous serving to each of the diners.
3. European Section
Now, I’m putting together the Italian and Spanish fare since the dishes were placed in nearby stations. There was a make your own pasta station where in you can select your fresh pasta and what kind of butter you would like it to be cooked in. The pasta was nicely cooked al dente, and the chef was generous with the parmesan cheese. I was quite disappointed that the truffle butter didn’t even have a taste of truffle, but it was good nonetheless.
The Risotto was in the food stations, and while I normally enjoy Risotto, I think it would have been more enjoyable if it was included in the freshly cooked option. The paella was tasty and had a generous amount of seafood.
For protein, I enjoyed the chicken with mushroom sauce and the roast beef. The roast beef was tender and perfectly cooked! The piece we got was cooked to a lovely medium rare.
4. Indian Section
This was probably my favorite station! Chicken Tikka Masala, Lamb Kebab, Vegetable Biryani– I was in heaven! Not too many places have an Indian food station (much less a good one!) The chef was at the station making fresh dishes and was willing to explain what he was cooking up. Everything in this station was tasty and authentic. Safe to say that this was one of our favorites!
5. Dessert Section
For those of you that love Cafe Macaron in Fairmont Hotel Makati, you’d be excited to know that Novotel has brought in the same chef that created the many delicious desserts at their sister hotel. The icecream at Novotel is made in-house. They also have several different option for toppings and sauces. Besides this, they also have a beautiful chocolate fountain that looks like it came from Willy Wonka’s factory.
You can opt to have your icecream in one of their freshly made waffle cones, or in a bowl with one of their plain or cinnamon churros. Besides this, their cookies were surprisingly chewy and tasted like their descriptions. Most of the time, we skip out on cookies and brownies at buffets since these tend to be stale and tasteless.
There was also a selection of mousses, panna cota, and cakes. My favorite was the raspberry panna cotta. It was nicely tangy with a slight sweetness to it. A great palate cleanser after the tasty meal we just had.
If you’re craving for local delicacies, I highly recommend that you try their fresh pastillas. I wish that they were selling this in the bakery section as well for people to purchase and take home. They also have sticky rice with Mango, (borrowed from Thai cuisine) putobumbong, and a halo halo station. Rest assured, you will not be running out of choices at the dessert area.
6. Drink Station
Their drink station had a variety of juices and water infused with fresh fruit. Please try the watermelon water! It was so refreshing and perfect for summer!
On Sunday brunch, your meal (Php 1,588) comes with free flowing champagne– and who doesn’t love that?
Also, for those of you Pia lovers out there: Miss Universe 2015, Pia Wurtzbach, and Miss USA 2015, Olivia Jordan, both stayed at Novotel Manila for the Binibining Pilipinas ceremony last April 17, 2016. We dined at Pia’s favorite table that day!
Have you tried Food Exchange Manila? Let me know what your favorite dishes were!