to tell you the truth, i'm not much for buffets. it's just an accepted form of greed and overindulgence over food that in retrospect, may not be all that good to begin with, and an open invitation for indigestion. even in really nice places, i always get suspicious over certain dishes on offer--why are there so many prawns? where's the sneeze guard for the salads? do they need to clear out the deep-freeze? what are they trying to hide under the velouté? how many people have double-dipped in the chocolate fountain?
however, i do see the usefulness of buffets. it's great for a large group of people who have no idea what they want to eat or have varied tastes, and often the atmosphere is rather casual and conducive towards conversation, even with people whom you don't have much in common--how's the beef? where'd you get that? do you like it? how many people are in line for tempura? it also offers convenient getaways once you realize you really don't care for your company--i need more dessert. it's time for the second round of entrees. don't talk to me, i'm eating. i can't talk to you, i've eaten too much and need to lie down under the table.
although we didn't celebrate thanksgiving, we did indulge in a celebratory feast by going to circles at the shangri-la hotel in makati. the shang is consistently rated as one of the top hotels in the city, and they had renovated their casual coffee shop/café sometime last year. i vaguely remember it as a tasteful but somewhat dull tropical-themed room with equally dull coffee shop food, but the new room is all dark wood, glass, and accent lights and orange accessories galore--clubby yet casual, slick yet inviting. of course, heavy on the circles theme, and lots of coordinating dishes and serviceware. the dish whore in me had a barbarella-meets-the-orgasmatron-like moment when i noticed all the appetizers and desserts in tiny, perfect portions in tiny, perfect porcelain, glass and ceramic plates, shot glasses, tiles, and tureens. soup spoons of half a cherry tomato with a dab of pesto and a single shaving of parmesan. a square shot glass of a saffron seafood creme. j's gorgeous tureens filled with savoury and sweet bread puddings. chocolate covered homemade marshmallows in a miniscule ceramic skillet. a saucer of single shot of almond gelatin, clinging gently to a whole lychee. to paraphrase meg ryan in "when harry met sally", this was me as i walked passed each food station, laden with all the service accoutrements: "yes. yes. YES, oh. my. god. YESSSSSS."
click on each square for details
the food has improved. i'm not entirely convinced that it's better than any of the quality establishments around town, but there are some definite strengths amongst the vast array of goods. of course, you'll just have to discover them for yourselves but personally, i found the appetizers lacking, the italian selections serviceable, the chinese/japanese/thai selections passable but unmemorable except for the roasted items and soups, which were very good. you could eat your weight in meat from the various carving stations, and die quite happily. there was also a good selection of vegetarian, vegan, and lowfat options. the desserts varied, but then again, were rather chocolate-centric, and i am not.
click on each square for details
so, my completely biased idea of what strengths circles buffet has: good selection of main dishes, well laid out food stations, attractive setting, attractive presentation, small portions of appetizers and desserts (they know you want to taste everything :)), food stays hot, rarely overcooked, high turnover/replenishment because it's so busy. plates are taken away in a timely fashion. staff is very courteous, helpful, and almost convivial.
what i didn't like: oy, people get pushy when they're hungry! appetizers not that thrilling despite presentation, serviceware/plates all at ankle level and blocked by lines of people, too many tables so it can be tricky maneuvering through a crowded room to your table if you are in the main room. however, the tables in the main room are better than the outlying tables. service staff has trouble keeping up with refilling drinks and taking requests at the table. you'll eat too much.
still, i'd go again, if i must buffet. the room and atmosphere are very nice, it's quite laid back and conducive towards lingering, yet still stylish enough with quality food to lend a sense of occasion if there for a celebration. most importantly, i can use up as many plates as i want and no one gets mad.
circles event café
shangri-la hotel, makati
ayala avenue, corner makati ave
(reservations currently absolutely necessary!)