Photos by Star Sabroso
An expat living in the Philippines for a few years once told me that, unlike our neighbors in the region, the Filipino cuisine was “confusing.” And that while Vietnam is known for its fresh tasting fares and Thailand is popular for its deliciously spicy dishes, it is hard to distinguish the taste profile of our food offerings.
We have salted fish and meats, sweetened dishes, sour soups, steamed vegetables, savory roasted fares and rice-based desserts, among various others. Blame it on the mixed cultures of our past conquerors and visitors, but despite labels such as “confusing,” “disconnected,” “a hodgepodge of fares,” we are proud of our culinary fare.
In celebration of the National Heritage Month this May, Marriott Manila’s all-day restaurant Marriot Cafe turns the spotlight on the diversity of Filipino food – whose flavors, ingredients, preparation, cooking techniques and presentation make them distinctly remarkable.
“We are featuring regional dishes all over the country and dishes like dinuguan, which are very popular with Filipinos but not so popular with foreigners so that we can make them experience how authentic our dishes can be,” Marriott Cafe sous chef Bryan Salarzon told The Standard Life.
The food promotion, dubbed Art-Taste-Tic, showcases “the best of Filipino cuisine” with a side dish of Filipino art, because while the 250-seater restaurant serves Filipino food favorites alongside dim sums and congee of the Chinese station and sushi and sashimi of the Japanese station, Marriott Manila invited Filipino contemporary artist Christian Regis to exhibit some of his artworks featuring Philippine festivals and popular heritage sites at the hotel lobby until the end of May.
“Food and arts collide here at Marriott Manila as we showcase the best of Philippine food and the best of Philippine arts,” says Marriott Hotel Manila director of Marketing Communications Michelle Garcia.
The vibrant colors and tempting aroma of Davao pomelo and shrimp salad, pako and lato salad, ensaladang mangga with crispy bagnet, tuna kinilaw, Bulalong Batangas, sinigang and sopas, line up the perimeter of Marriott Cafe. Kare-kare lovers are in for a treat as a station located in one corner lets diners make their own kare-kare using fish or meat and a choice of either the traditional peanut sauce or coconut-based sauce.
Appetizers have never tasted so good and sinful, among them chicharong bulaklak, kwek-kwek, lumpiang shanghai, crispy kangkong and tokwa’t baboy. The Philippines being a nation proud of its street food, Marriott Cafe also features pork gizzard skewers, chicken gizzard skewers and pork belly skewers – all of which pair perfectly with our local beers.
Other local favorites include beef kaldereta, adobong manok sa gata, rellenong bangus and chopsuey. Because Filipino food is never complete without chicken inasal and lechon, the restaurant’s chefs, headed by executive chef Meik Brammer, also got the roast pig straight from the grilling station.
But the star of the buffet is the enticing array of fresh seafood at the Fresh Catch of the Day station. Diners are invited to grab a plate and take as much as they can from the buckets of crabs, shrimps, fishes, shellfish and scallops that are harvested daily from Navotas, and have them cooked by the chefs however they like it.
With these tasty viands, rice is undeniably mandatory. Thankfully, there are pinasingaw na kanin and kanin sa ginisang bagoong that would satisfy everyone’s carb cravings.
Put a sweet end to the meal with servings of buko pandan, leche flan, cassava cake, sapin-sapin, ube halaya, and halo-halo-flavored gelato. Then wash them all down with fresh buko juice, or with melon, gulaman or buko pandan samalamig.
This Filipino food promotion is available until June 12. The buffet is available for dinner, starting at 6:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m. To know more about the Philippine Heritage Month celebrations at Marriott Hotel Manila, call (02) 988-9999 or visit www.manilamarriott.com.
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