CUBAO, Quezon City — The Food Exchange Manila at the Novotel Manila Araneta City kicks off its Sunday cultural buffet with the Italian-themed Ode to Nonna.
Novotel had to close all of its F&B outlets during the shutdowns, but successfully reinvented itself with its Take Me Out delivery brand. Now that restrictions are easing, the Cultural Plates buffet is what Novotel catering director Matt Salcedo calls the final phase of the reopening of the hotel’s various bars and restaurants.
For the former, the restaurant offers traditional dishes that Esterina, the 97-year-old grandmother of Novotel executive chef Massimiliano Pauletto, used to cook when he was growing up in Italy.
Although there are the usual pizzas and pastas at the buffet, we encourage the hunt for special rustic Milanese dishes that are rarely seen elsewhere.
For example, Chef Massi’s Bollito Misto may look like the Italian version of nilagang baka. But calling it that won’t do it justice. The kitchen prepares three different broths of beef tongue, shank and brisket that simmer on the buffet counter.
Make sure you have a bowl and get some of that rich broth. While already bursting with flavor, topping it with a dollop of salsa rosso or salsa verde transforms this seemingly simple soup dish into a unique Mediterranean delicacy.
Also discover the other stations. Have carpaccio with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and burrata as a starter.
The pasta station offers soft, buttery gnocchi topped with tomato sauce.
Another must-try is the Green Pea Risotto with Crab made much creamier and richer because it’s prepared inside a giant cheese wheel.
On the pans, Polpa a La Luciana, very tender octopus with broccoli, peppers and tomatoes braised in red wine.
Don’t miss the Food Exchange’s own version of the Cheese Room. You can stroll around and compose your own plate of cheeses and charcuterie to accompany the other dishes on the buffet.
For dessert, sample some of Novotel’s famous ice cream paired with Italian classics like Torta Caprese, Strawberry Crostata and Bombolinis.
Besides Ode to Nonna, there are three other rotating cultural plate-themed Sunday buffets. Fisherman’s Catch showcases responsibly sourced seafood like mussels, oysters, clams and shrimp that can be freshly grilled or baked with fresh sauces; K(kalye) – POP! with a variety of street food staples from Manila, Singapore, Bangkok, Jakarta and Hanoi; and Mumbai Express for a mix of classic Indian cuisine and modern Indian dishes, including roast leg of lamb and seafood curry.
Each Cultural Plates Buffet will primarily feature dishes and live cooking stations that adhere to the theme, although a taste of the other themes can be found at The Food Exchange’s permanent stations.
The Sunday buffet of cultural plates at the Food Exchange is priced at P2,488 net per person.