MANILA -- Every Sunday, S Kitchen at the Sheraton Manila Hotel serves up brunch loaded with Filipino favorites.
Sunday brunch is an ideal way to leisurely spend time with family and friends before a busy workweek starts. The S Kitchen presents a spread that not only has variety, but also a ton of Filipino personality.
“Sunday brunch has become popular here in Manila, so we created a concept that invites people to not just eat but dine like there is a celebration. It’s that overall authentic experience of local culture through food,” explained executive chef Kiko Santiago.
Travel blogger Ramil Delos Reyes of Metro Staycation also noted that letting guests experience local culture through food is something that the Sheraton is known for worldwide.
Familiar dishes are usually given a local spin. Some standouts in this category include the Bicol Express Pasta from the live station, which had a delicately spiced sauce of coconut with a generous serving of seafood; as well as the Binalot na Laing, a cabbage wrap filled with coconut stewed taro (gabi) leaves and dried fish.
Surprisingly, these dishes were not spicy, perhaps to cater to the broad audience of a buffet (but you can ask them to make the pasta dish spicier though), and indeed, both dishes were good introductions to Filipino flavors for the uninitiated.
But if you’re already salivating with just the word "fiesta," you’re in for a treat!
During our visit, lechon stuffed with paella and a beautifully rendered lechon belly, both cooked on a pit on site, were appropriate stars of the buffet, while an array of viand reinforcements bubbled away in pots beside them like the rich kare-kare (tripe in a peanut stew with a palayok of bagoong on the side), ginataang suso (snails stewed in coconut), and spicy goat kaldereta (spicy tomato goat stew), among others.
To go with all of these, a rice station (how more Filipino can you get?) had three choices -- from good ol' plain rice, to binagoongan rice with green mangoes, and even salted egg rice topped with fried anchovies (dilis).
Skipping rice? An inventive pansit (Filipino-style fried noodles) corner offered up some carb alternatives like miki batchoy pansit, crispy pansit canton, and bihon longganisa. This author was partial to the bihon dish, which used sweet Cebu-style longganisa to flavor the noodles.
Predictably drawing a crowd, S Kitchen’s Seafood Paluto station had crabs, oysters, squid, and various fish (from garoupa to seabass, among others) ready to be grilled, steamed, or fried to order.
While 10 sauces were available including popular sauce options like garlic butter, lemon butter, and sweet and sour, we recommend trying the tausi (fermented black soybeans) sauce with your steamed fish, or the sweet garlic sauce with any of the fresh crustaceans on offer.
Near the paluto station, we discovered, tucked away in a corner, a selection of fried dishes like chicharon bulaklak, bagnet, and crispy tadyang. These crispy treats were best enjoyed with a healthy dousing of readily available condiments like sinamak (spiced vinegar) and spicy soy sauce. (Filipino style pork barbecue and chicken were also available, and delicious with these condiments.)
Condiments, a staple of Filipino style eating, had a prominent place in the S Kitchen buffet. Conveniently available near the grilling section, you could have Mang Tomas with your lechon, patis (fish sauce) with your bulalo soup, and even mix your own toyomansi (calamansi and soy sauce) for your stuffed grilled squid.
Atchara, another Filipino condiment, came in the traditional papaya version, as well as in cucumber, and radish variants.
For lighter fare, best to keep your eyes peeled for the lumpia-on-the-go cart, manned by a lady that wraps lumpia (either a fairly standard fresh ubod lumpia, or our much preferred dinakdakan stuffed lumpia) per your request.
Filipino desserts both traditional and imaginative were also a focal point in the S Kitchen dessert station.
Traditional favorites like palitaw (flat sweet rice cake) and fried banana langka turon were freshly made, and had eager diners waiting for every batch to finish.
While waiting though, diners could graze on ube pastillas, various truffles and pralines, as well as heavier items like biko sa latik (rice with a candied coconut topping), and the S Kitchen exclusive creation ube maja with keso (cheese).
Other Filipino panghimagas options included halo-halo with your choice of toppings, or scoops of ice cream with local flavors like calamansi and melon (the calamansi sorbet was also a great palate cleanser between savory plates), among others.
All these plus all the regular stations of the buffet (steak, sushi and sashimi, cheese and cold cuts, Indian and other Asian dishes, soups, cakes, a crepe station, etc.), including perhaps the best drink station of any buffet in Manila (with unlimited fresh juices and sodas, as well as individually bottled coffee jelly, melon, and pandan drinks) make S Kitchen’s Sunday Brunch truly a feast.
Sunday brunch at S Kitchen is from 12 noon to 3 p.m., and priced at P2,500 per head.