Spiral. It’s a curve which emanates from a central point, getting progressively farther away as it revolves around the point. This is how “spiral” is characterized in mathematics and in general language. In cuisine, Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila characterizes “spiral” in this manner: “Manila’s most fashionable eatery is a concept restaurant with multi-cuisine open cooking stations. Indoor and outdoor environments blend beautifully in the spacious, natural setting.” One rainy Saturday provided us a window to explore the Spiral.
[See map and directions]
It was raining, alright. The typhoon that already entered the Philippine area of responsibility brought heavy rains in and around Metro Manila. We’ve made up our minds to visit Spiral, a famous restaurant of Sofitel found in CCP Complex Roxas Boulevard, Pasay City. No amount of rain could dissuade us from completing our long-planned-yet-always-postponed culinary journey. We were not the only ones with the same mindset.
The place was already jam-packed by the time we arrived. The rain may not have stopped us, but it considerably slowed us down. It was almost 2 p.m. when we approached the counter at Spiral. The lunch buffet closes at 3 in the afternoon and we planned to take our time, enjoy the food and just chill. Again, we were not the only ones with the same mindset.
Because the restaurant was jam-packed and because we arrived late, we were placed on the wait-list. Fifth in the list. These, ahem, inconsiderate people, leisurely walking around the food stations with their white plates, with a smile that tells us we have to wait a bit longer. We had to wait for more than 30 minutes. Why can’t they haul their ass to allow other starving souls to enjoy the fine food and light ambiance of Spiral? Of course, those on the wait-list would probably feel the same way had we arrived earlier. We would have taken our time just like everyone else. Patience is a virtue. Waiting taught us to be patient and, by vicarious reflection, to be considerate.
Waiting also taught us to make a reservation when going to Spiral. Make a surprise visit and, chances are, you’ll get surprised, languishing in the wait-list like us. But we were prepared to wait. We had the entire afternoon and the entire evening booked for ourselves. It was another let’s-go-and-see-where-the-road-leads-us fun trip. The spiral staircase, which must be the inspiration for the name of the restaurant, is smack right in the center, wrapping around an art installation standing on a serene fountain. Going up or down to the main lobby from the Spiral restaurant, you’d readily see everyone smugly enjoying their food, and they’d see you navigating the stairs, thinking that you, poor soul, must be some guest who failed to make a reservation.
Either that, or you’re a bride posing for some last-minute photo-ops before the wedding. We saw 5 brides that afternoon, not including the ones we could have missed before we went out to the poolside while waiting. Brides seem to like Sofitel and photographers seem to like staircases. Every wedding album seems to contain at least one photo shot on stairs, with the gown train draping down the stairs, the bride grasping the bouquet with two hands. The Spiral’s, er, spiral staircase is one picture-perfect staircase.
We waited by the poolside. The rain momentarily stopped and the comfy poolside chairs, with huge standing umbrellas, provided some lounging respite. The swimming pool complex comes with arching bridges and kiddie slides, mini-playground and a great view of Manila Bay. Nice-looking coconut trees that appear to have been groomed in a test tube strategically litter the place. With the liquor/beverage conveniently tucked in one corner, I could actually live here by the poolside. Darn, this is a nice place. We momentarily forgot about our Spiral getaway, reminded only by a phone call from the staff that a table is already available and waiting for us. Now, that’s service galore.
It was time to go on a gastronomic adventure that Spiral is known for.
It was a little after 2:30 p.m. when we were escorted to our table. We only had 30 minutes to go through all the food stations. Japanese cuisine, Thai, Chinese, Filipino, European, Persian, just to name a few. First things first, though. No, it’s not to wash our hands. There are more important things than eating or washing hands. Like taking pictures. We had to take time and get approval to take photos.
The big boss on the floor, Marcel, gave his nod but suggested we come back for the 6:00 p.m. leg of the buffet. He didn’t give any reason. We figured it has something to do with the quality of the shots, as the servings and presentation at the end of the food “show” would most likely be different from what one would expect at the beginning. We said we prefer going ahead. He gave us a calling card. It turned out to be a get-out-of-jail card every time a staff approached us to whisper that taking photos of the food and the setup is not allowed. Good thing they only whisper it to you, probably so as not to cause any embarrassment. Good thing we got approval and had the calling card, so as to proceed with the happy snap of the camera. The things we go through for VisitPinas.
Our designated table is right beside the dessert counter. Those yummy chocolate fountains — not one, not two, but three of them — just waiting for us. The flowing dark and white chocolates, in separate fountains of course, seem to exude a siren call that is terribly hard to resist.
Then there’s the ice cream teppanyaki, with all the add-ons. It’s pretty much like the Cold Rock found at the cinema floor of Trinoma, but at Spiral it’s eat-all-you-can. The chocolate fountain and the teppanyaki were more than enough and we stopped looking what else there was for our sweet tooth. We’re like a caretela-pulling horse with blinders. We had to set our priorities straight. Dessert comes last. Yes, children, dessert comes at the end of the meal. Why, oh why, do we have to put dessert last? And why do they have to sit us beside the dessert counter? That was plain torture, to say the least.
First salvo, the sukiyaki, plus a healthy load of maki and sashimi. In front of the Japanese cuisine section is a large centerpiece of prawns and oysters arranged on top of crushed ice. An ice sculpture in the middle completed the scene. We passed on the variety of bread and the blue cheese, tempting for starters. It was food war of limited time and we had to choose high-value targets.
We could have stopped there and go home very happy. There was more, though.
Main course, generous slices of succulent medium-rare Prime Beef Ribs and the delectable Salmon Puff. First time we’ve tried Salmon Puff. That’s salmon wrapped in flaky dough. You could eat salmon raw, no problem. This one is cooked, the juice incorporated halfway into the thin crust. The flaky crust melts as the teeth gently sinks onto the soft inner crust, preparing the taste buds for salmon goodness inside. Tastes absolutely great, I was tempted to run to the chef and give him a big, fat hug. We could eat the entire slab and go home happy. Yet there was more. The trick, however, is to consume little servings to explore the rest that Spiral has to offer.
We tried the Chinese section for purposes of comparison with the rest of the culinary world. The dumplings, the siopao, tastes good, just don’t think of Ma Mon Luk. The pansit canton, we forgot the exact culinary proper name used, is a must-try.
It was already past 3 o’clock and, pressed for time, we forgo the Thai and Filipino corners. One last stop for pasta before dessert. Ai Frutti de Mari, prepared before our eyes, just like how Jamie Oliver, or the contestants at Top Chef and other cooking show would do it. The pasta and the seafood goes into the pan. Sprinkle of some spices. In two minutes or so the chef was plating the whole thing. Stack ’em high on one side. “More cheese on top, yes?,” the chef asked. We nodded. How can you say no when you don’t know how exactly it is cooked? Tasty smoking-hot pasta, the last course we’ve decided to sample before dessert.
Then, surprise, surprise, the chef approached us. “It’s unfair that you only have a limited time for the buffet,” he said. Good point. “We’re more than satisfied with what we had,” we replied. “Perhaps risotto and foie gras?,” he suggested, and before we could answer, he already barked orders for the two dish. It was past 3:30 and he held off the kitchen for us. Gestures we genuinely appreciate. So we stayed while the staff cleaned out the other tables. The buzzing sound of more than a hundred hungry patrons was gone by then, just the distinct clink of plates and utensils.
And faster than we could say, “Additional Coke Zero, please,” the foie gras and risotto came served. What could you say with a tender, delicious foie gras? “Heavenly” comes close, but it’s difficult to use this term in tandem with the heart-stopping richness of foie gras.
Only when we asked for the bill did our senses went to rest from hyperdrive. We realized that the wind was lashing rain towards the glass wall of Spiral, directly overlooking the swimming pool complex. It was a splendid stormy afternoon at Spiral of Sofitel, “Manila’s most fashionable eatery is a concept restaurant with multi-cuisine open cooking stations. Indoor and outdoor environments blend beautifully in the spacious, natural setting.” That description won’t sink in until you’ve experienced Spiral.
[See map and directions]