Call me a late bloomer, but I admit I haven't delved much into Vietnamese cuisine yet. Fortunately though, one of my favorite eat-all-you can buffet destinations in the Metro, Market Cafe at Hyatt Hotel and Casino Manila has brought in Chef Ho Thi Tin and Chef Le Hoi Tuong from Hyatt Regency Danang Resort & Spa, Vietnam to prepare a gastronomic feast of entrées and desserts, and to give us a taste of Danang, Vietnam.
|Flat Rice Noodle; Photo from Hyatt Hotel and Casino Manila|
From September 7 to 16, guests can go on a culinary journey and enjoy a sumptuous array of fresh, healthy and delicious Vietnamese specialties on top of the regular offerings at Market Cafe. And the best part is, you get to feast on unlimited servings of meal starters, salads, seafood, prime rib, Chinese, Japanese, Italian and Indian fare, desserts and free-flowing soft drinks and beer, plus the Vietnamese creations of guest chefs, Chef Ho Thi Tin and Chef Le Hoi Tuong, all at Market Cafe's regular buffet rates.
The Meal Starters
Being a newbie on Vietnamese cuisine, all I knew prior to visiting Hyatt are Vietnamese spring rolls and the famous pho noodle soup. However, I was more than ready to let the culinary immersion begin as we were introduced to dishes from the province of Danang.
For a light start, we first had a Pomelo Salad with Dried Shrimp and Mint Leaves. When I saw this particular salad ensemble, it immediately reminded me of Thai cuisine. Upon first taste though, I realized that although both cuisines make use of pomelo, the executions are different. Both may be refreshing with a harmonious blend of sweet, tangy and salty flavors. However, the Vietnamese take is generally lighter on the palate.
Next, we had a taste of the Chicken Salad with Cabbage, Onion and Mint Leaves. Compared to the previous salad dish, this one is definitely more on the savory side. Although still as refreshing, I find that this is a better choice for those who don't really dig an all-veggies and fruits ensemble. I'm sure even the carnivorous beau will enjoy this!
Last among the salads is the Green Mango with Scallops and Sesame Crackers which is actually my most favorite of them all. Like most green mango salads, this plate also has a lovely sweetness and tang which my palate totally digs. Unlike the green mango salads I got to try from other establishments though, especially from Thai restos, this one has a milder acidity perfect even for my hyper-acidic tummy. And did I mention that this plate has a generous amount of chewy, savory and delectable scallops?
Another meal starter we got to try is this beautiful plate of Grilled Beef, Lemongrass and Anchovies Sauce. While I'm more fond of beef steaks than ground beef, I liked how tender and succulent these grilled meaty bundle of goodness were. Although they're quite peppery and already flavorful, they went pretty well with the salty and slightly spicy sauce. However, for the appetizers, our hearts and palates are still with the exquisite salads.
Before we jumped in to the mains, we first had a hot and comforting bowl of Sweet and Sour Soup with Tomatoes, Bean Sprouts and Tiger Prawns. Unlike the sweet and sour soup in Chinese cuisine, the Vietnamese version is simpler and lighter with a runny and semi-clear soup pimped with the refreshing flavor of pineapples. And while I love my thick and flavorful bowl of goodness, this was surprisingly addicting.
The Main Entrées
After a lovely bowl of simple yet satisfying soup, we were then off to try the mains which in all honestly were a total surprise for me. You see, I didn't have a single idea of what Vietnamese cuisine has for its main entrées.
First off was the Simmered Chicken Leg, Ginger and Spring Onion. While I was expecting something distinctly Vietnamese in this dish, I was surprised that this tasted strongly like a sautéed chicken in ginger item in most Chinese restaurants. Don't get me wrong, this was indeed very good. I just didn't think that Vietnamese viands would be similar to those of Chinese cuisine's.
We then sampled the Braised Duck, Taro and Fermented Bean Curd, another item which seemed reminiscent of a Chinese dish. Since I'm a taro lover, I really enjoyed munching on the taro-coated succulent duck meat. I'm not too fond of bean curd though, but I was somehow expecting to get a hint of its flavor to no avail.
After two fowl items, we had the Pan-fried Sea Bass Fillet with Lemongrass, Chili and Turmeric. Being a fan of sea bass, I can say that this dish didn't only live up to my expectation but even gracefully surpassed it. The fillet was cooked to a perfect firmness and tenderness with a beautiful earthy, herby and zesty flavors. Unlike the first two viands, this one is more reminiscent of Indian cuisine for its use of turmeric.
Next on our table was the Sautéed Beef Tenderloin with Green Pepper, Onion and Capsicum. While the beef pieces were cooked to a nice tenderness with a savory sauce to go with it, I wasn't feeling this item too much. I guess it didn't have something unique and memorable in it that it got overshadowed by the other dishes we previously had.
While the Sautéed Spinach and Young Corn in Oyster Sauce looked rather ordinary, I found myself addicted to munching them. With spinach cooked in oyster sauce, I already expected that it would taste something I usually eat in Chinese restaurants, savory, a little sweet and a tad salty. And yes, I got what I wanted and I really enjoyed it.
From the live station, Market Cafe will be offering this Oven-baked Pork Leg with Five Spices and Honey. Although this pork leg dish looks sinful, I think it's actually a healthier option than our local lechon and crispy pata. Aside from being oven-baked, these are light on the palate with just a hint of sweetness from honey. And while it's not a total head-turner, I liked how moist and tender the pork meat was.
For some carbs, we had the Fried Rice with Salted Fish, Crab Meat and Asparagus. This fried rice dish tasted a little familiar to an item in most Chinese restaurants, but is definitely less greasy, lighter in flavor and with heapings of fresh vegetables.
Our Vietnamese lunch won't be complete without trying out their version of sweet treats. So to officially cap off our meal, I checked out the goodies Danang has in store for us.
I first sampled the Banana Soup, Coconut Milk and Roasted Peanuts. While this seemed like a Vietnamese version of our guinataang halo-halo, this had more of a sweet and refreshing banana flavor which I totally dig. Despite being really heavy on the tummy, I managed to finish my bowl since it was really good. Left me filling full afterwards though.
Next, I tried the Green Bean Sweet Soup, Peanut, Ear Mushroom and Coconut Milk which you mix with crushed ice. Again, this was reminiscent of another local dessert, our very own halo-halo. However, with simpler ingredients, this version tasted lighter, less sweet and with evident flavors from the young mung beans.
Even if I was already feeling full because of the heavy desserts, I still managed to squeeze in some Mango Pudding. You might think that this particular item is already common even in local restaurants. However, the Vietnamese version is less sweet, focusing more on the beautiful and distinct flavor of fresh ripe mangoes.
After tasting three dessert items, I was already getting the concept behind Vietnamese desserts. They're less sweet and evidently lighter on the palate, and the same goes for their Cream Caramel. There wasn't a lot of sweetness going on, but I love how these were smooth, silky and soft with a subtle caramel taste.
Last among the desserts is the Pig Skin Cake. I know, I know, we too were so intrigued when we saw this item's name on the menu. However, this isn't made from any part of a pig, but is instead a Vietnamese rice cake similar to our local sapin-sapin. This item is only called as such because its top and bottom-most layer has a tougher texture similar to a pig's skin. The middle part on the other hand, has a soft layer of purple yam.
There'll be three menu cycles, and these dishes I've featured are only part of set one. In a nutshell, the Vietnamese food festival in Market Cafe really has a lot of gastronomic goodies in store for us. And if that's not enough, diners during the 10-day period also get a chance to win amazing prices in a special lucky draw.
- First Place: Two-night stay in a Club Room with breakfast and Regency Club privileges for two at Hyatt Regency Danang Resort and Spa, Vietnam
- Second Place: Two-night stay in a guestroom with breakfast for two at Hyatt Regency Danang Resort and Spa, Vietnam
- Third Place: Overnight stay in a guestroom with breakfast for two at Hyatt Hotel and Casino Manila
Although this is already the fourth time I've been to Market Cafe, I'm still at awe that this eat-all-you-can destination doesn't only maintain its great food and service quality, but can also come up with new and enticing dishes that are definitely worth a visit. After this trip, Distinctly Danang Food Festival at Hyatt hasn't only given me a taste of excellent food, but have also taught me more about Vietnamese cuisine. So to our friends at Hyatt Hotel and Casino Manila, and to Chef Ho Thi Tin and Chef Le Hoi Tuong, thank you!
Ambiance - 4/5
Service - 4.5/5
Price - 3.5/5
Overall Value - 4/5
Weekday Lunch - P1,600++
Weekend Lunch - P1,800++
Monday to Thursday and Sunday Dinner - P1,800++
Friday and Saturday (Surf & Turf) Dinner - P1,950++
Market Cafe, Hyatt Hotel & Casino Manila
3rd Lvl., 1588 Pedro Gil cor. M.H. Del Pilar, Malate
Manila, Metro Manila