Even before the hotel has formally opened, Marco Polo Ortigas Manila’s all-day restaurant, simply called Cucina, is drawing sizeable crowds of diners, mostly from around the business district of Ortigas Center of Pasig City, the dining landscape of which seems to be more vibrant nowadays.
Cucina opened last March with the soft opening of the hotel at the 24th floor, where the reception area is also located. The L-shaped restaurant can seat 156 people, and sports high ceilings, tall windows with equally tall louvers for natural lighting, moody earth tones and quirky wood partitions that are almost sculptural pieces, fomenting Old World charm punctuated by modern sensibilities
As with any hotel restaurant, Cucina’s main draw is its buffet, which has seven or eight stations curated in such a way that each interactive open kitchen station almost overlaps with one another, save for one or two, to provide a seamless array of Continental and Asian gustatory delights.
The stations include Chinese, Indian, British, Filipino, Japanese (mostly sushi and sashimi), Italian, carving and dessert. The seafood is laid on a blue-lit bed of crushed ice at the start of the buffet spread. The cheeses, cold cuts and charcuterie station is ensconced by circular walls in the middle of the dining area.
Though Cucina’s buffet spread is not as expansive as the others, Marco Polo Ortigas Manila prides itself in emphasizing flavors rather size through the careful selection of buffet items, overseen by its British executive chef Benjamin Roy Rendell, who brought with him over 36 years of experience in international hotels as well as exposures to different cultures, influencing his culinary style. Aside from winning gold at the Salon Culinary Bahrain, and acknowledged as creating Bangkok’s best brunch and best buffet and grill in Thailand for five consecutive years, he also has cooked for Queen Elizabeth II and other heads of states at state dinners. Rendell believes in purity—simply prepared classic dishes with contemporary approach.
|Marco Polo Ortigas Manila’s executive chef Benjamin Roy Rendell|
Cucina’s buffet highlights some of his signature dishes, one everyday for the week.
On Mondays, best get the appetizer—buttery and delicate French dish of pan-fried duck liver with spring salad, sautéed apple cider dressing and calvados glaze.
|Pan-fried duck liver with spring salad, sautéed apple cider dressing and calvados glaze|
On Tuesdays, the warm Thai beef salad topped with grilled fillets of US beef mixed with traditional Thai dressing and chili takes center stage. This version is a good introduction to the classic Thai dish for those averse to spice, but the lovers of spicy Southeast Asian dishes may be a tad disappointed because its characteristic piquancy is tempered.
Every Wednesday, Filipino cuisine is represented by the barbecue pork and chicken marinated with lemon, garlic and soya, and served with atchara, pickled green papaya strings.
On Thursdays, the kitchen will be manned by Marco Polo Ortigas Manila’s Hong Kong chefs to prepare dim sums and the star of the day: chili crabs prepared in Cantonese style. The seafood feast continues the two following days with moules mariniere and warm rock lobster thermidor. Moules mariniere is a French dish using imported mussels braised in Chablis wine, herbs, garlic, dairy butter and beer. It is served with French fries. On the other hand, each serving of thermidor has half of rock lobster sautéed with shallots, brandy, white wine and tarragon, and served in a mustard-flavored cheese sauce.
|Warm rock lobster thermidor, half rock lobster sautéed with shallots, brandy, white wine and tarragon, and served in a mustard-flavored cheese sauce|
|Moules mariniere, imported mussels braised in Chablis wine, herbs, garlic, dairy butter and beer|
Go sumptuous on Sundays. They’re having filet of Beef Wellington (boeuf en croute), using prime US beef tenderloin coated with pâté and duxelles. This is then wrapped in pastry and baked. This is accompanied by potato gratin and Madeira sauce.
These special dishes are meant to keep the buffet experience from being boring, and in Cucina, buffet is not about the quantity but the quality.
Cucina is open daily for lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and dinner from 6:30 to 11 p.m. Price for lunch buffet starts at P1,400 net, Monday to Saturday. Brunch on Sunday starts at 1,700 net, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Dinner buffet starts at P1,700 net (Sunday to Thursday) and P2,000 net (Friday to Saturday). Breakfast buffet is P1,225.71 net.
Marco Polo Ortigas Manila is at the corner of Meralco Avenue and Sapphire Street, Ortigas Center, Pasig City. For more information contact (632) 720-7777 or book online via www.marcopolohotels.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit facebook.com/MarcoPoloOrtigasManila or follow @MarcoPoloManila on Twitter or Instagram or experience MPMDining.com.
Two recipes from Benjamin Rendell
Shallots (300 grams)
Butter (100 grams)
Olive oil (½ cup)
Slipper lobster tail (cleaned, 1 kilo)
Penne pasta (500 grams)
White wine (¼ litre)
Brandy (½ cup)
Fish stock (1 litre)
Double cream (½ litre)
Dijon mustard (120 grams)
Mustard grain (50 grams)
Egg yolk (8 pieces)
Cheddar cheese (grated, 200 grams)
Swiss cheese (grated, 200 grams)
Parmesan cheese (100 grams)
Mozzarella cheese (100 grams)
Chopped parsley (30 grams)
Molden sea salt (50 grams)
White pepper powder (20 grams)
Procedure: In a hot pan, add the olive oil and butter. Sauté for five minutes until translucent. Add the lobster tails for two to three minutes and then add the brandy and white wine, then cook for two minutes. Take out the lobster tails and add the fish stock. Allow all to evaporate to half to its original volume. Add the cream and gently simmer until rich, and the sauce will coat the back of a spoon. Add the lobster tails. Add the Dijon mustard and mustard grain, cheddar cheese and Swiss cheese with the cooked pasta. Add the chopped parsley and mix in the egg yolks. Be careful not to re-boil again. Place the mixture into an oven proof serving dish and sprinkle with mozzarella and parmesan cheeses, and place under the grill until all the cheese has melted and is a light brown in color. Serve immediately.
Warm Thai beef salad
US fillet of beef (140 grams)
Thai fish gravy (3 tablespoons)
Lime juice (3 tablespoons)
Soy sauce (3 tablespoons)
Oil (3 tablespoons)
Brown sugar (2 tablespoons)
Minced garlic (1 teaspoon)
Shallots (3 pieces)
Cilantro (½ cup)
Basil leaves (sliced into ribbons, 1 cup)
Mint leaves (½ cup)
Red onion (100 grams)
Cucumber (100 grams)
Cherry tomatoes (100 grams)
Baby red chilies (20 grams)
Procedure: Season the beef with salt and pepper and grill with the oil until medium rare. Allow to rest. Prepare the dressing by mixing Thai fish gravy, lime juice, soy sauce, brown sugar, minced garlic and chopped shallot. Slice the beef into thin slices and mix with the mint leaves, basil leaves, big dices of red onion, cucumber and cherry tomato halves and the dressing. Add the baby red chilies in small slices. For presentation, heap into the center of the plate and decorate with sliced shallot, cherry tomato and coriander.