Food. Food is usually the primary reason — the sole reason, for some — to visit a restaurant. It’s also the same reason why people go back to a restaurant. From time to time, however, there’s a welcome twist that happily shifts the focus from food to something else that heightens the dining experience. We’re comfortable with holes-in-the-walls that serve great food. We also have no problem exploring restaurants that serve extra servings of ambiance as a selling point. Let’s lift the curtain and check what makes the Movie Stars Cafe (Movie Memorabilia Studio Cafe and Restaurant) different (and why it’s a fun place to visit).
1. No Transformers
The Movie Stars Cafe, as the full-length name suggests (Movie Memorabilia Studio Cafe and Restaurant), is not only a place to eat. It’s also a movie memorabilia studio. There are countless trinkets, props and artifacts that happily trigger the movie memories of guests. There’s Shrek, in all his green splendor, quietly grinning in one corner, a few arms length from the Alien (Alien vs. Predator, remember?). The Alien, on the other hand, is a 4-D depiction of the movie villain, here physically passing through a wall (we’re interested to know how the Alien passes through the wall like Casper or Patrick Swayze in Ghost, and not tear it apart just like in the movies).
There’s a giant dinosaur that looks like the T-Rex featured in the 1993 movie Jurassic Park (wow, we can’t believe we’re old; seems only yesterday when we watched that movie). We’re trying to decide whether all T-Rex dinos have extreme anger management issues or the happy Barney is an evolutionary aberration (for more dinosaurs, go to Clark to see the Dinosaurs Island). The angry dinosaur at the Movie Stars Cafe, with its wide-open jaw populated by sharp teeth, lurks menacingly above the buffet table. We’re not sure of the reason why the restaurant designers picked that spot for the dinosaur. We can only surmise that it’s intended to scare off guests who treat buffet like a literal last supper.
Any movie-themed restaurant would almost always feature artifacts from the Star Wars. Not featuring any item from The Fault in Our Stars is permissible, but snubbing Star Wars is a serious sin (punishable by no less than getting featured in that MTRCB moviehouse ad on the meaning of movie ratings). So there’s a Storm Trooper standing guard at the buffet line, with a bust of C-3PO at the cash counter. The placement appears to be intentional because C-3PO is a protocol droid that, as he claims, can speak millions of languages, probably including cashier machine and credit card languages. And for those who plan of not paying, or disturbing the fun ambiance, there’s Terminator in its robot form (would be a blast if that robot can speak something, like “hasta la vista, baby!“).
There are a lot more characters featured in the Movie Stars Cafe, but — thankfully — we didn’t run into any Transformers memorabilia (or local legends like Panday and, uhm, Gagamboy). If there’s an autobot or decepticon lurking somewhere in the restaurant, we were successful in avoiding the robot life form. Don’t get us wrong, though — we absolutely adore Bumblebee and Optimus Prime, at least during the very first flesh-and-bone rendition of the movie: the 1986 Transformers: The Movie. However, right after the 2014 Transformers: Age of Extinction, we swore (and we say this with utmost respect to those who happen to love this movie) never to watch Transformers until the director treats viewers as people with functioning brains.
2. The Iron Man
Everybody loves the Iron Man. C’mon, admit it, you love this guy! How cool is it to wear a powerful suit controlled by an equally powerful computer, with powerful armaments to boot? The only way Iron Man could be more cool is to have Incredible Hulk in the house, showing Loki who’s the man (or, more accurately, who’s the puny god).
Now, if you haven’t seen that scene in The Avengers, perhaps you should spend some more long weekend feeding the dvd player with movie candy. Like Batman Begins (our equivalent of the first Transformers movie). Batman is in the Movie Stars Cafe (only his head, unfortunately). Compared to the “limited-edition” Batman head, there’s a life-size “live” Iron Man. He goes around the entire restaurant to entertain guests, gamely posing for photo ops. It’s just like a cosplay event. You’ll have a “selfie” with truly “powerful” friends (no need to seek out photo ops with powerful friend-politicians, the downfall of those linked to the PDAF scam).
We were a bit starstruck when Iron Man came by our table. I mean, man, that’s Iron Man! The billionaire Tony Stark in the flesh. We were seriously tempted to ask him one thing. No, not about Stark Industries and how he built his billion-dollar empire. We wanted to ask him something more important, way more transcendental: how does he take a pee with that armor?
3. No Long Queues
We were hesitant to use the word “queue” because “fall in line” is more commonly used (and infinitisimally easier to spell), but we have to use that term to approximate the level of suffering one experiences while waiting in line to be allowed inside Vikings.
No big deal to admit that we went to the Mall of Asia complex, in the City of Pasay, to try out the Vikings, another 100% Filipino (at least that’s how to advertised the place) eat-all-you-can buffet restaurant. We should have made reservations, we know, but we were hoping that we can try our luck and simply go straight to Vikings. Tough luck. We were 56th out of 72 in the wait list. Everyone was hungry and, the Vikings staff told us, guests usually take their time in enjoying the buffet. There’s no guarantee that, if we decide to wait, we won’t grow a splitting headache due to extreme hunger. By the way guests are moving around the buffet counter inside Vikings, we figured there’s a better chance of a person declared saint by the church (but, dear Vikings, we’ll be back to try out your buffet line).
So we scoured the area for other restaurants. At that time, we still haven’t heard of Movie Stars Cafe, which opened in early 2013. We didn’t know that this fun-themed restaurant is just beside Vikings at the Mall of Asia. Come to think of it, how could we miss King Kong, with its mouth wide open in a silent roar, and its gigantic left hand stretched out to grab passersby, at the entrance of Movie Stars Cafe. Right at the entrance, even before patrons go inside the restaurant, there’s a lot of views that would convince any selfie addict that this restaurant, aside from being a place of culinary sustenance, is a “selfie” haven.
We’ve discovered a number of things about queues in food outlets. Some restaurants intentionally “encourage” the queue to grow longer. The perceived effect of a long queue is a no-brainer — people will think that the food is great, such that a lot of people are willing to wait for hours just to get into the restaurant. On the other hand, some restaurants that don’t have a queue actually serve good/great food. They care about their patrons and make sure that they have ready space for the crowd. We would like to believe that the Movie Stars Cafe falls in the second category.
4. Stage Shows, Mini Musicals
There’s another huge plus for Movie Stars Cafe: the stage shows. Yes, my dear, there are regular stage shows in this restaurant. When you attend the regular theater shows like Rak of Aegis, for instance (we highly recommend that you watch this beautiful stage play, featuring the songs of the rock group Aegis and a simple-yet-great storyline, at the PETA Theater in Quezon City), consuming food and beverage is not allowed while the show is in full blast. In Rak of Aegis, violators are threatened with the penalty of singing one Aegis song — a few octaves higher. Perhaps our lawmakers should consider having this creative penalty because the traditional imprisonment appears not to be effective in deterring pork barrel masterminds.
There’s a stage at one end, directly opposite the buffet area, although it’s hard to tell if this is the main stage. There’s also a stage at the very center of the restaurant, with an elevated walkway connecting the two stage areas. These are the performing areas.
At the Movie Stars Cafe, guests are encouraged to eat and drink more, even while the stage shows are ongoing. Tables beside the stage enjoy the spectacle of Spider Man or the Green Goblin jumping from the stage during fight scenes. It’s really tempting to hit the Green Goblin, as he rolls off the stage, with a beer bottle — our little way of helping the good side of the eternal battle between good and evil. The colorful and energetic 30-minute musicals are absolutely entertaining for the kids. Good enough for adults.
5. The Food
The food, of course. What’s a cafe/restaurant without the food. At Movie Stars Cafe, we tried a few favorites. There’s the Raging Bull, which is a “12 oz. wood-fired ribeye topped with our flavorful steak butter accompanied with coconut shrimp skewers, sautéed spinach and garlic mashed potatoes. Served with a pineapple orange sauce and sweet and spicy Pan Pacific dipping sauce.”) The Eiffel Tower, a “three layered sandwich on a big white loaf, filled with pastrami, chicken salad, smoked turkey, ham, bacon, cheese and egg salad, served with mesclun and crispy potato chips.” For pasta, we tried the Hawai Five O (“mixed seafood, spicy marinara sauce, linguini pasta”).
We sang to the food tune of Jackson Five (“chicken Lollipop, buffalo chicken wings, almond chicken tenders, chicken sate, chicken tenders, served with honey mustard dressing, buffalo sauce, blue cheese dressing, thousand island and vegetable crudités”). And we were introduced to Rebecca, the “8 oz. wood-fired center cut sirloin topped with our flavorful steak butter and served with fresh vegetables and garlic mashed potatoes.”
Stars BBQ Pork Ribs (“full rack, St. Louis style, roasted with our special seasonings. Fire-grilled and double basted with tropical Kona BBQ sauce. Served with coleslaw, a french fries medley and cinnamon apple relish.”) Star Studio (“12 oz. wood-fired ribeye topped with our flavorful steak butter then paired with wood-fired jumbo prawns and finished with lemon sauce. Served with garlic mashed potatoes and fresh vegetables.”)
The food in Movie Stars Cafe is good, with special mention to the Jackson Five. Not spectacular, not special, but good. It’s definitely far from the 1993 Michael Douglas starred movie, Falling Down, in which movie the lead character went on a violent rampage, noting, among a lot of angst about life, that the food actually served in fastfood restaurants, and restaurants in general, does NOT come close to what is shown in advertisements and promotional materials. Now, tell us, how many of you feel like whipping out a gun, like what the lead character in Falling Down did, every time the burger looks nothing like the one featured in the menu?
The food in Movie Stars Cafe is a bit pricey, yes, but the ambiance sufficiently makes up for it. It’s a place we’ll definitely visit again, but largely because of the ambiance. It’s a matter of perspective. Look at it this way: it’s a movie-themed fun place that happens to serve good food.
We are firm believers of the saying that “whenever He closes the door, He opens a window”. Our inability to be accommodated into the Vikings buffet gave us the opportunity to discover the Movie Stars Cafe. Still, in food and in life, the window of opportunity won’t serve its purpose if we don’t grab the opportunity. So, next time you’re in the Mall of Asia area or when you’re thinking of a restaurant to check out, we suggest the Movie Stars Cafe.