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Marriot Manila’s Flavors of Asia Food Review and Press Con Coverage

In follow-up to my previous post Flavors of Asia at Marriott Manila, here is my review of the buffet and coverage of the Press Conference.

The Marriott Manila Hotel invited bloggers on their Press Conference of their new dining offering:  Flavors of Asia buffet.  What separate this buffet from the rest is the authenticity of the dishes.  They flew-in four chefs for this:

  • Renaissance Kuala Lumpur’s Ruhizad Muri
  • JW Marriott Jakarta’s Dadang Wahyudi
  • Renaissance Riverside Saigon’s Phan Tien Hoa
  • JW Marriott Bangkok’s Thanatorn Krobsuay

With the chefs cooking the dishes, manning their respective stations, the only thing that will surpassed the authenticity of the dishes,  is flying to the country where the dishes originates.  For only P2,300 net from Sunday to Thursday and P2,500 net for Friday and Saturday, it’s definitely cheaper than flying out to get this gastronomic experience.

Mr. Juvel Contreras, Marriot Cafe Manager, walked me through the buffet’s different stations.

Walkthrough of the buffet

Let me walk you through my experience in each of the countries cuisine offerings.

Vietnamese Cuisine Experience

A native of Ho Chi Minh, Chef Phan Thien Hoa presents well-rounded Vietnamese dishes notable for its minimal use of oil, bountiful use of herbs and vegetables– which shouldn’t make one wonder why it ranks as one of the healthiest foods in the world!

My curiosity was aroused when I saw this cooking station making something like a crepes.  It’s called Bhan Xeo (pronouced like Shaaw), the Vietnamese crepes similar to our okoy but prepared without egg but uses rice flour instead to find the ingredients you selected.

Bhan Xeo (Vietnamese Crepes)

I tried the dish and it’s different from okoy.  I requested mine to be done with shrimps. It is more of a crepes with the soft texture compared to our crispier okoy. It is accompanied with a fish sauce based sauce with chilis for extra flavoring.  Something new, something different.

One of the popular dishes associated to Vietnam is pho, Vietnamese style noodle soup. Considered the heart and soul of Vietnamese cuisine, it features a delicious play on broth, rice noodles, meat, herbs and spices.  There is a dedicated cooking station for pho.

Vietnamese Pho (Noodles Soup)

I tried the pho with beef and mixed vegetables. With the dips of black bean sauce and chili sauce for the beef, the steamy flavorful pho noodle soup with a dash of lemon and a garnish of green chili to spice it up was heaven sent.  This is my ideal rainy day comfort food.

With Chef Hoa’s culinary expertise that lead to an exciting Vietnamese gastronomic experience, I’m putting Vietnam on top of my next Asia travel destinations options.

Indonesian Cuisine Experience

Popular for their satay which shows Asians’ love affair for grilled meats, chef Dadang Wahyudi  of Indonesia makes skewers tastier and more appetizing with these selections: chicken, shrimps, calamari, beef, goat, pork and fish in assorted marinations!

Another must-try is the bebek betutu klung klung, an all-spiced up Balinese dish enhanced by a host of pungent roots, herbs, and seasoning. Both locals and visitors are just so psyched about this heavenly roasted duck recipe that it’s considered a dish specially reserved for big banquets and ceremonies.

Satays and Duck

I tried the different meat satays with the peanut sauce and I really started to reminisce some of my Asian holidays when we ate in busy by day streets converted to rows of satay hawkers night markets. Ummmm…
Brings back memories.

Not to miss is the roasted duck.  It reminded me again of the first time I tried it when we were on holiday in Bali with my wife. I remember the special restaurant where we went to was very popular for this roasted duck. It was popular with both locals and tourist. I remember the place because there were lots of Harley Davidson bikes and HOG bikers that time we where there.  Be careful though of the chili sauce suggested with it, it was really hot and kept me perspiring for a few minutes in delight.

Malaysian Cuisine Experience

Chef Ruhizad Muri gives foodies a taste of Malaysia ’s noteworthy nyonya cuisine. Nyonya cuisine is a combination of Chinese cooking with spices used in Malay/Indonesian cooking.  A signature Penang-type of cooking that blends spices from roots (galangal, turmeric, and ginger); leaves (pandan, lime, and laksa); fruit (lemon, tamarind, and green mangoes); together with other ingredients like shrimp paste and chilies.  Imbibed from Thai cooking style, chef Ruhizad puts an interesting twist with the time-honored wok dishes of Malaysia. This section invites everyone as well to get creative with blue crab, shrimps, dilis fish, beef tenderloin, chicken, clams, barbeque chicken, steamed fish, assorted vegetables peppered with Malaysian spices. 

Nasi Lemak (rice cooked in coconut milk and pandan)

Chef Ruhizad Muri (right) at the Malaysian Stir Fry Cooking Station

Stir Fry
Note: The rendang and the percik sauce label got interexchanged

When I visited this cooking station, Chef Ruhizad Muri asked me for what meat and vegetables do I want to put in the dish. I selected two pieces of tiger prawns, two pieces of crab claws, and a mixed of veggies.
He recommended the rendang sauce with a bit of chili sauce.  He stir fried the mixed and wallah!  A stir fry for curry lovers!  I wished I could have eaten bare hands to do justice to the claws and the shrimp heads.
This made me miss the rendang dishes I tasted when I was in Penang and Kuala Lumpur during my business trips when I was still in the corporate world working for a global multinational company.

Thailand Cuisine Experience

Back by popular demand, Thai food definitely deserves all the hype for its four fundamental tastes that we Filipinos love: sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. Chef Thanatorn Krobsuay who trail blazed the first two consecutive most-talked about Thai Food Fest at Marriott Café, there’s no denying that it’s one of the cuisines we regularly crave for. This year, chef Thanathorn makes the selections more lavish and worth discovering with his new menu line up such as: deep fried sea bass with chili sauce, sautéed squid with pineapple and cucumber, beef balls cooked with typical Malay sauce, and braised beef spiced with turmeric and coconut.

Chef Thanatorn Krobsuayat
Massaman Near (Massaman Curry with Beef)
Gang Karw Wan Kai (Green Curry Chicken)

There was pork toast and fish cakes for hot appetizers.  I tried the yummy and not oily Thai fried rice with the different curries.  I was a bit disappointed not seeing my favorite Tom Yang Kung soup not being part of the Thai menu.

Beverages Included in the Buffet

While we were waiting for the Press Conference to begin, we were served with these beverages. Keeping with the theme, there were four different drinks from each of the countries. I tried and tasted all of them. Both the Limade and the Lemongrass drink were light and refreshing. The cold version of Teh Tarik, a popular hot tea drink in Malaysia, was a bit to creamy for me to have before a buffet. The yummy Apolkat Shake made from avocado and chocolate was more suited for dessert and I stayed away from it earlier not to spoil my appetite for the buffet later.

The 4 Flavors of Asia beverages

Left to right:

  • Vietnam: Limade (fresh lime juice with syrup)
  • Indonesia: Apolkat Shake (avocado & chocolate)
  • Thailand: Thai lemongrass (lemongrass and syrup)
  • Malaysia: Teh Tarik (black tea and condensed milk) 

During the buffet, I preferred the Limade since it is lighter on the tummy and lighter on my pocket since it is free and included in the buffet price.  I was thinking of having my doze of my Coke Zero, but the prize of P200 for a can made me dine without my standard meal companion.

Unlimited coffee is also served free of charged with the buffet price.

Other Stations

Japanese Station
Still in line with the theme, although not the main attraction, the Japanese section is not to be missed.  I started with the Miso soup and then proceed with the sashimis.  The quality of their sashimis where very good. I enjoyed both the salmon and the tuna sashimi.  I enjoyed the eel maki as well!  Their shrimp tempura with tempura sauce was a delight.

Hot Dishes and Carvery Station

Although not matching with the theme, the roasted beef in the carvery was included due to its popularity among the dinners and hotel guests.  I cannot blame them.  With it grilled further in the satay grill area to make it more well done, and then topped with mushroom sauce, it was definitely one of the highlights for me in the buffet. I just matched it with a dinner roll and Emborg Swedish butter and a few servings of salad. 

In the hot dishes section, they featured one dish each from the different countries.

Par Lad Prik (Deep Fried Fish with Chili Sauce) – Thailand

Ayam Rendang (Chicken with  Coco Milk) – Malaysia

Sauteed Squid with Pineapple and Cucumber – Vietnam
Kalio Daging (Braised Beef Spiced with Turmeric & Coco Milk) – Indonesia

Salad and Cold Cuts Station

Desserts Experience

While the West is abundant with milk for most of their dessert recipes, Southeast Asians on the other hand capitalize on the creamy goodness of coconut milk, whether it’s for glutinous rice or fruits. A mix of sweet, savory, hot and cold, these should be a flavorful last hurrah for a really good meal: pandan crepes rolled with caramelize coconut, stewed green bean with palm sugar, banana in sweet coconut, pandan leave jelly plus other famous delicacies that will surely strike anyone’s fancy. 

Asian Desserts Station

Chocolate Fountain and Gelato

Cakes and other delights

Chocolate Fountain with a varied selection of goodies to dip

Deviating from the theme, I tried some of the non-Asian desserts, the cakes and pastries.  The blueberry cheese cake was amazing.  I tried varieties of tarts and other western treats and it was definitely at par with international 5 star dessert buffets I got used to when I was in the Middle East.  This is another section that differentiates the Marriott Cafe’s buffet from your typical run of the mill cheaper buffets.

They have also a Gelato section with 12 exciting flavors. I tried the Palawan Honey flavor.  It was nice, different. Not too sweet. Just right.

My sweet tooth was definitely treated with royalty and was spoiled with choices available from the different dessert stations.


The main attraction for Marriott Cafe’s Taste of Asia as I mentioned earlier is the authenticity of the food.  You don’t have to fly to Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia to savor the authentic taste of their culinary flavors.  The only way to beat this authentic Asian gastronomic experience is to fly to the four countries.  Although, P 2,300/P 2,500 price per person, is not for your average Juan dela Cruz, the authenticity, quality of the food preparations, desserts and ingredients makes the price very reasonable.  Furthermore, the hotel ambiance, and the good service contributes to the overall dining experience.

It’s not for your typical week-end buffet, but I highly recommend it for your special dinner as if you are taking someone for a romantic, adventurous or relaxing holiday abroad to Southeast Asia destination for a gastronomic adventure without having to take your passports with you and pay travel tax.

Don’t miss it!  It runs only for the month of July 2012.

For inquiries or reservations, call Marriott Café at 988-9999.


Here are photos and videos of the press conference and behind the scenes.

The 4 Chefs introduced to the bloggers

Bloggers taking photos of the Chefs:

Fellow blogger Azrael and his wife, and Rodel
Reception Area of Marriott Cafe where you are welcome with a smile

Credits:  All photos and videos are by Teddy Bear Photography.

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