With Arthur leaving for an Asian cruise trip, I thought it best to have a little despedida (send off party) before he flew off (in Singapore Airlines, I'm so jealous). And if you've read through one of my recent posts, we were both unhappy with a restaurant experience we just had so I was wary about shelling out a huge amount only to have frowns after the meal.
I was going through my email inbox and I found a letter from Shangri-la Hotels which led me to their website. As I was going through the Golden Circle page, I was reminded that Traders Hotel was now under their group as well, and decided to see what the hotel was about since I have never been there. They had an ad stating their hotel buffet was only PhP 499++ for lunch at their restaurant named Latitude, which piqued my interest for the despedida - at least it would not cost as much as the meal we had in my earlier blogpost should it turn out to be an unpleasant experience.
Remember when we were taught never to judge a book by its cover?
Whoever said that line must have eaten at Latitude because we didn't expect to enjoy ourselves.
And we did.
The price already tipped us off to lower our expectation level, so I thought that was clever in a way that was disarming. (Setting the bar low makes it possible for customers to have a perceived better experience when things go right.) For hotel buffets, you would expect to near the 4-digit mark peso-wise, so 499++ was a steal (granted, Traders Hotel isn't considered a 5 star hotel) and was more in the category of Dads and Yakimix price wise.
We made a reservation for 11:45AM as the restaurant was open by 11:30AM for lunch and we were informed that it would only be around 12NN that the buffet setup would be complete. We got there almost at the time we said we would and I had time to photograph some areas of the place.
It wasn't a large place but I thought it was neatly enhanced by the dark wood all around and had a great feel to it - Arthur being very particular about ambiance (more than the food) and it got a thumbs up from him so I knew it was definitely nothing to sneeze at appearance wise. (Personally, I'll eat at a dilapidated hole in the wall if the food is worth it.)
When I went over to the buffet spread, I was surprised to find that it was already around 90% complete, and that they were merely arranging one more dish as well as some finishing touches. And in a mere moment, the waiter came over to tell us that we could begin.
Neither of us saw a label for this soup, and we both also didn't try it, but Arthur observed that it was like a pho station (the famous Vietnamese soup dish) where people could have noodles and various ingredients added to their liking. It's just too bad that I didn't taste it as I like pho.
These were the various condiments, vegetables, noodles and sauces you could put in your soup. The little cut up shrimps were very tough, Art got some to place on his salad and it felt overcooked. We both missed out on this as we both didn't take in the soup.
I started off with the salad (a good diet trick as well, fill yourself up with greens, not the breads) and the only "safe" option (calorie wise) was the vinaigrette dressing, which turned out to be a winning choice. (Almost equal parts sour and sweet with just a hint of salt) There were six dressing choices (including Roquefort, something I rarely see) You could have a "heavy" meal with their choice of salad toppings, shown below.
That's at least 24 things you could have on your salad, and I haven't even added their selection of cheeses. I was happy to see arugula in their greens selection which always gives any salad an oomph and a half. The toppings section included boiled chicken and cut pork and mushrooms, so really, your salad alone could be a "complete meal", or you could go full vegetarian all the way.
They had a bread selection as well, which we never tried, only because we would rather use our calorie count for more substantial fare (bread being derogatorily called "filler" sometimes).
This trio of appetizers - smoked salmon, Hungarian sausage with onions and potato salad - caught my eye, as I did not expect the first two of the trio to be included in a PhP 499+ spread. It was really a welcome and pleasant surprise, until Art saw the next offering (next picture) and I saw him smile.
While this "cold" selection is nowhere as extensive as the ones offered at Circles or Spirals (which would include crabs and other shellfish), it warmed us and we were just amazed that it was even offered at Latitude at all. And the salsa that came with it was superb. The dressing on the bottom right, though unnamed, was a taste sensation.
Arthur's version of a Happy Meal, shown above. And there were even more appetizers to choose from, that really, it was difficult to know which one to sample first.
Some macaroni salad variation on top, with a tuna concoction below, served with fried bread.
I didn't get to sample this either, but it was a mishmash of various little veggies.
Beef pieces in a thick sauce. I didn't care too much for the sauce, but the beef was done just right, which I rarely see, as oftentimes, the beef can be overdone and chewy. You could go through the beef with your fork, very nicely done.
And we have only just begun. The main dishes will be in the next post. Art and I were glad to have discovered this place, as we know of no one personally who could tell us their own experience of eating here, so this was really a "blind' moment and just hoping that it would "work". Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't.
Sometimes it works, and it makes you smile. This is one of those moments.