My family is always in  constant search for new dining places to try out.  We each have our own preferences.  On numerous occasions, we have had  to vote on where to dine for the day.  Last Friday evening, though, our big appetites pointed us to one destination, our favorite buffet – Café Ilang- Ilang at the Manila Hotel.  It didn’t matter that we had to travel all the way from the south.  The famed Grande Dame’s french macarons alone  by Chef Jerome would be worth the trip!

Colorful dried leaves made into chandelier-like décor adorned the ceiling inside the hall.  My quizzical look was answered by the gracious host who led us to our table.  “Today is the first day of the Filipino Food Festival, Ma’am.  You have to try the lechon.  Enjoy the feast! ,” she said.  We had every intention of following her recommendation.

Before filling up my plate, I scouted the Filipino spread for the night.  Although, Café Ilang-Ilang had all of its 8 live stations operational (Asian, Mediterranean, European, Western, Pan- Asian, Churrasco Grill Station, Italian and the dessert bar), I decided to zero in on the Filipino Cuisine.  The spread included everything from the familiar (fishballs, adobo and menudo) to the not-your-everyday fare (balut salpicao , hiplog-shrimp with salted egg sauce and pizza palabok).  I soon learned that culinary personality Dedet  “Lechon Diva” Dela Fuente Santos had been invited to showcase her Filipino specialties throughout the two-week run of the festival.  Along with timeless classics as prepared by Manila Hotel’s Executive Chef Walter Konrad, guests can partake of the exciting and award winning flavors of the guest chef.

Balut like you’ve never tasted before!

It was good that we arrived just before 6pm. Shortly, thereafter, the lechon truffle was brought out.  The framed description alongside the chopping board read – FRENCH LECHON – stuffed with truffle rice. Awarded tastiest Asian dish in  London by the Chowtzer group.  A line immediately formed at the lechon counter and guests had varying requests — “Can I have the belly portion?  Please give more crispy skin!  More laman and less truffle rice for me.”

So worth all the calories! But remember –everything in moderation.

Back at our table,  everyone was enjoying dinner. The lechon was sinfully delicious!  Both my 12  year old son and 4 year old daughter finished off their crispy, tasteful portions quickly. My boy then asked me to try the adobo pizza he had gotten from the Italian station.   The soy and vinegar marinated meat on  the crispy quick-fire cooked dough tasted really good.  I personally liked the crab cooked in crab fat and coconut cream.  I would have preferred for this dish to have more of the rich sauce though. Perfect for smothering the succulent crab meat in!

My favorite dish in the festival.

After two more gulit-free trips back to the roasted pig section, it was time for dessert.  I highly recommend the Mango Trifle from Pepita’s Kitchen.  Light, sweet and bursting with local flavors, this confection is made from mango mousse with rosquillos, broas, puto seko, fresh mango slices and leche flan.  Not to be missed also are the hotel’s special bibingka and puto bumbong at the alfresco area.

End your meal with this delightful dessert!

The Filipino Food Festival runs from Sept 11 to Sept 27.  For more information, please call The Manila Hotel’s Food and Beverage Team via 527 0011.
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