Come in hungry, walk out happy!
This tagline from a local burger and burrito chain came to mind the minute I went out of Cafe Marco, the signature restaurant of Marco Polo Plaza Cebu. But I wasn’t just there to sate a hunger but, upon the invitation of a friend, Yumny, I savored delectable chinese dishes as prepared by a renowned father and son chef team in, perhaps, Cebu’s best hotel buffet.
Marco Polo Hotel has been in operation for the past six years, taking over from the defunct Cebu Plaza of yesteryear. And since its start, it has been celebrating its Culinary Journey, a 10 day celebration of specialized cuisines not only in regional Philippines but internationally as well with expert chefs flown in for that authentic cooking.
This month, the formidable team of Gene and Gino Gonzalez, renowned Filipino chefs visit again the hotel, their 6th, to whip up interesting chinese dishes with their Impressions of China. It is their take on Chinese cuisine as they encountered not only in China but in many Chinatowns like in Manila, Thailand and other places.
During the ten days, signature dishes are prepared and spread out through the duration of the culinary event thus you always have something to look forward to every time you visit.
Yesterday, I started with the hot and sour soup, a delicious thick starter with nori seaweeds, mushroom and other ingredients. But other than the hint of sourness, there’s that kick and bite, teasing your mouth to have more of it.
The emerald rice was interesting. Onion leek juice make the rice green and at the same time, adds a distinct but subtle flavor. Shrimp and crushed dried danggit, Cebu’s pride, adds texture. Specialized dimsum is also offered and one even has a specific red curry soy dip that lends a beautiful flavor in the mouth.
The soy chicken was just so great, flavorful. Crispy beef ribs in black pepper sauce drizzled with seasoned salt was just amazing. One of the dishes that I really like was the pata with sea moss. It was just so tender and with the right consistency that you just want to come back again and again for it. And these are just some of the dishes available for lunch that day. Thinking of the others being cooked and offered in another day can always pique one’s curiosity.
The problem with food buffets is that there is a tendency to taste all and with Cafe Marco, the choices can be overwhelming. There’s Japanese, Asian, Filipino and Cebuano (lechon Cebu anyone?), appetizers, Western, salads and desserts. You just have to take pieces and bits to put on one’s plate or decide to come back another day just to try it all.
Of course, dessert. Who would not want these delectable morsels, a dieter’s nightmare but is just so irresistible? At Cafe Marco, their are lots of choices! Salted egg ensaymada (local version of the brioche) with a sweet filling is a delightful interplay of sweetness and saltiness on a soft bun.
The chocolate cake with caramel sauce is memorable: moist chocolate cake with strips of mangoes and, of course, the caramel sauce. The thought of it now makes my mouth water.
There are cakes and chocolate fondues. Choco mousse and native rice cakes that is definitely Cebuano: bibingka, Mandaue version. But there is one dessert that you should never ever leave out: the creme brulee.
If you have to have room for dessert, this is it. Crisp sugary surface that breaks easily with a dive of the dessert spoon that lets you reach the oh so delicate and creamy inside. A taste can make your heart flutter with delight and enlightenment. It comes in two flavors: green tea and coconut. Both are good and divine. My only complaint? It comes in mini cups and easily flies off the glass shelf. Hoard if you must. Its eat all you can.
Coffee and tea is on the house with every buffet meal. The malicious cookies are also great: white choclate base with dark choco chips, and plenty of it. Their fresh lemonade is also very much recommended which is really made with American lemons and so good.
Is the buffet at Cafe Marco at Marco Polo Plaza Cebu expensive? Breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets are present everyday. But its the lunch (P998) and dinner (P1222 with crabs, oysters and other seafood) that are quite intersting. What’s more, the almost monthly Culinary Journeys introduces you to so many interesting cuisines that you can always have a reason to visit Cafe Marco.
Come hungry, walk out happy. That’s what I experienced.
Impressions of China, a Culinary Journey at Cafe Marco will end this 7 October 2012. It will be followed by Octoberfest and the French Food Festival by November. Keep updated of promos and special events at Marco Polo Plaza Cebu.