Monday, January 19, 2015

Philippines Day 8: NIU by Vikings, an eating day

Day 8: December 29, 2014 - buffet lunch at NIU by Vikings with the Sons at Aura Mall
This is going to be the biggest food porn post of my entire trip. I’m sure I did more on Day 8 than just eat but frankly, I can’t remember what those other activities were. Keep scrolling down and you'll understand why.

Part of our itinerary that was set before we even landed was that we would have lunch with a couple that my parents have known forever, the Sons. Actually, my dad has known Tito Dave, the husband, since they were young engineers together early in their 20s. We like getting together with the Sons not only because they're nice but also because they know good food. And you know how we like good food. The restaurant where we met them was located in Aura Mall, which we had gone to before and was billed as a “Chinese buffet”. It was called Niu by Vikings and let me tell you, calling it a Chinese buffet was as understated as calling Warren Buffett a little financially secure.

First of all, Niu was on the 6th floor (call it the penthouse floor as that’s the highest you can go) of Aura Mall. By the time you get up that high, the masses have thinned out considerably. Because if you weren’t on the 6th floor to shell out a thousand pesos per person to dine at Niu, you didn’t have any business on the 6th floor since that seemed to be the only establishment up there. The restaurant was huge. Lest you think I'm exaggerating, it was large enough to hold all of the cuisine you see below in addition to the kitchen, the dozens of tables in the main part of the restaurant and the private dining rooms. 
Thanks to the Sons booking ahead, we had our own private dining room with a view of Metro Manila.

You can safely imagine how much I went into sensory overload. I couldn't click my camera fast enough and my head probably was swiveling like an owl trying to take everything in. The buffet ran alongside one side of the restaurant. It felt like a near quarter-mile stretch. Okay, now I may be exaggerating but not by much.
The desserts were at the end closest to our private dining room but I managed to restrain myself to just taking pictures on my first pass so I could check out all of the other offerings. Hot chafing dishes of different kinds of cuisines were liberally spaced on all of the counters. There was no such thing as one buffet table, more like 20 or 30, each a different section offering various cuisines.

You could go Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indian, Filipino, American, Italian, and different kinds of fusion cuisine. My nieces enjoyed the fresh sushi considerably, evidenced by the multiple trips back to that section of the buffet. The important thing was, it was all delicious. Not to mention beautifully presented.
The Sushi Station

And I'm not going to lie, I can personally attest to my assertions. I did restrict myself to only 2 plates of savory food but I'm not going to pretend those plates weren't full because they were. And that's not even counting when Tito Dave requested certain dishes from the buffet that the multiple servers were only too happy to go get for us and bring to the dining room. You can't beat the service here.

One section of the buffet - and it goes all the way to the back of the picture

And if you wanted a break from solid food to insert a refreshing beverage, you can have that too. My nieces went for the mango juice when they saw the guys behind the juice bar slicing fresh mangoes for the juice.

The satay was so good....

My dining companions thought this tofu was amazing. I don't eat tofu so I'll take their word for it.
If the prime rib is too rare for you (many Filipinos don't like anything more pink than medium or medium well), the staff will slice the prime rib and fry it briefly to get rid of most of the pink. I know, I know, prime rib aficionados might face-palm at that but hey, NIU knows its audience. I only heard one lady requesting they not fry her prime rib; everyone else wanted theirs fried to barely pink.
The carving and frying station for the prime rib
Oh, did I mention the chocolate fountains? One white chocolate and one dark chocolate. The only thing that kept me from indulging is they didn't have anything to dip that I wanted to eat. Sadly, no bananas, strawberries or rice krispie treats, just marshmallows, melon and pineapple chunks and watermelon, none of which tempted me to add to my already full stomach by the time I was ready for dessert.

Ramekins of creme brulee are in refrigerated display cases and if you want one, you simply pull it out, hand it to the attentive chef behind the dessert counter and he'll brulee the top for you right there. If you don't want to wait, you just let him know what table or room you're in and he'll bring it over with its freshly bruleed, crackly sugar topping. I'm not that spoiled so I waited for mine rather than having them deliver it to our private room.

Selection of gelato
When I thought I was done eating, I noticed the sign for "Crepes" with an array of flavors. I thought if I ordered one, I'd be able to watch them make it because there was a crepe maker nestled in amongst the desserts. Alas, though, they just took my order, asked me where I was sitting and promised to deliver it. Since the guy taking my order for a banana and almond crepe disappeared into the kitchen, I figured the pristine crepe maker was just for show and I didn't want them to feel pressured to make the crepe whilst I stood there so I left and waited for my crepe to show up.
It didn't take long and although yes, by this time I was already past the point of prudent indulgence and was well into the sin of gluttony, that didn't stop me from enjoying the warm crepe with crisp edges and a soft middle stuffed with caramelized bananas, drizzled in chocolate sauce and sprinkled with sliced almonds. YUM.
To give you an idea of this level of overindulgence, we met the Sons for lunch at Niu at 11:30 am. We didn't leave until 1:30. Yep, we ate for 2 hours. Needless to say, I didn't eat for the rest of the day. I think all I had room for was water. In fact, I didn't eat again until I hit the pandesal at 7:30 am the next morning. Even then, it didn't feel like an 18-hour fast. But trust me, it was worth it. Next time I'm in the Philippines, this is going to be one of my stops. Move over, Vegas, this was the best buffet ever.

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