Cooking Live : Cucina at Marco Polo Ortigas Manila

For a country, like the Philippines, who loves to eat, it's then expected to have such a booming food industry and boy, competition can be very very fierce! There's basically a lot of options to eat from such as the basic carinderias, to the growing number of food parks, then there's a wide array for restaurants specializing in all sorts of cuisines and cooking techniques then we have our hotels. Within one hotel, you can expect to have more than 3 F&B outlets such as a traditional Chinese or Japanese restaurant, a coffee shop and our favorite -- an all-day dining restaurant which offers its culinary masterpieces buffet-style. Now, it's not really a big surprise how come Paul and I would always pack on so much weight after spending a couple of days back in Manila. Most of the time, we just eat, eat and eat!

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During our recent visit home, we checked out Cucina at Marco Polo Ortigas Manila. We've loved this hotel after dining at Lung Hin and we told ourselves that we should definitely go back. Right after Christmas, we were invited to have a dinner date at Cucina. To be honest, I was so excited for this and was looking forward to this dinner even before actually flying home to Manila then. Cucina is an all-day dining with 9 live stations. With all the hotel buffets out there, I think this is one thing that makes Cucina unique. You can pretty much customize your dish down to how you want it, how much you want to have and if there's any special request that you have, who knows maybe the Chef might be able to grant.

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From the moment that you enter the restaurant, you'll be greeted with this beautiful spread of salads, fresh produce and smoked seafood. I know some hard core buffet eaters would go for the mains right from the start but I still can't shake the habit of starting with some salad, a couple of hors d'oeuvres and of course, some maki and sashimi too. I just noticed that they didn't have any chilled seafood in the line-up.

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The Japanese station gives you a good selection of fresh sashimi sliced upon order and some maki rolls. I'm not sure if this is allowed but you can possibly request the Chef to create a maki roll with any of the fresh sashimi fishes available.

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Beside the Japanese station, there's the Asian Soup station which I love! I was able to put together a refreshing soup with my choice of toppings very similar to doing a shabu shabu only I got the Chef to cook it for me. How convenient, don't you think? My soup had a mix of Singaporean fish balls, kikiam (I know, I know), veggies, noodles, salmon and beef strips. So yummy!

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Tucked secretly on one side is the Bread and Cheese station. Luckily, Paul and I were seated very near this area so we were able to spot it as we entered the restaurant. There's a selection of soft and hard cheese, some nuts and a couple of freshly baked bread too.

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Moving on, we checked out the Signature Dishes station with a couple of Mediterranean dishes. We tried a couple of items here and we thought it was pretty good. I just feel that they should highlight this area more as this is, after all, their signature dishes. It can easily be missed as it's positioned beside the grilling and carving stations which are everyone's favorite go-to spot.

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The Grilling Station, I feel, is one that's very unique to Cucina. Sure, all buffets would offer grilled meats but rarely have I encountered one where they can grill meats and seafood depending on how you want it. Want your steak medium well? That can be done! Want a certain sauce with your seafood, no problem! Expect Filipino-style grilling so I would recommend to have some toyo-suka-mansi with your grilled skewers.

Then they have the Carving station with Crunchy Pork Roulade and a couple of accompaniments and sides to go with it. I was hoping to see some Roast Beef here so I was a bit disappointed and decided to give this a pass.

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What I didn't miss out on though was the carbs Paella/Pizza/Pasta Station. We tried every thing here and my vote goes to the pasta which was cooked on the spot. I asked for farfalle pasta cooked aglio olio style with a bit of cream and shrimps. So good! I normally go easy on carbs when dining at buffet restaurants but I can't help it and I'm glad I actually went ahead and tried it.

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The paella was also something worth trying and I just love how it's served in a tiny llanera. I would recommend you share your pasta and paella so as not to stuff yourself as we got two more stations waiting for us!

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Up next was the Asian station -- Chinese, Filipino and Indian. These cuisines that are close to my heart (and my tastebuds too). We have an overload of Chinese and Indian dishes here in the Lion City and being away from Manila, Paul and I zeroed in on the Filipino spread where I tried the Sinigang na Hipon while he tried the savory dishes available. This was actually my third soup for the night as I also got a bowl of Mushroom Soup after having the Asian Soup that we shared earlier. I can't help it! Sinigang is my favorite Filipino soup so I just had to go and try it.

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Lastly, we reached the Dessert station. There was a good selection of ice cream with sprinkles and topping, cakes and baked pastries and freshly cooked bibingka and puto bumbong! It was Christmas after all and no holiday season will ever be complete without it.

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The cakes here changes depending on the season or if there's any promotion at the moment. There were surely a lot of Christmas-themed cakes during our visit as it was the holiday season.

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Our experience at Cucina was amazing. The service staff were all so attentive despite the fact that the restaurant was so packed and there was even a private function happening at the far end of the restaurant. We were surprised that one server even came to our table to offer some samples of a special dish. Love the personalized service all through out.

Will we go back? Definitely! It may not be as grand or the selection may be quite limited compared to other hotel buffets but we love how you can interact with the chefs and have your dishes prepared right in front of you. This is what you call quality over quantity.

Let me give you a virtual tour of the buffet through this photo slideshow below:

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

*photos by Paul Ang

Check out Cucina at Marco Polo Ortigas Manila along Meralco Avenue corner Sapphire Street, Ortigas Center, Pasig City. It's open from 12NN to 2:30PM and 6PM to 1030PM. Buffet price starts at Php. 1,500 nett per adult while children below 6 get to eat for free! Kids from 6-12 y.o. can enjoy the buffet at half the price. 

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