As a general rule, I never go to any form of buffet or all-you-can eat affair unless it’s lunch time. I don’t have the appetite one might expect from someone with an athletic build standing 5 feet 9-1/2 inches, but when I’m sitting in a buffet I always tend to push myself to the limit. As we are all aware buffets typically charge a steep price tag, so I find it hard not to eat more than usual to justify what I just paid for.
Sometimes you don’t tend to realize exactly how much you’ve devoured until you’re walking out of the restaurant– barely walking that is, because you’re too full you can hardly move properly! So imagine my surprise when I walk out of this pig-out session at Diamond Hotel’s Yurakuen not feeling like I stuffed myself silly for the first time ever in the history of my all-you-can-eat forays!
When we arrived at the restaurant, my eyes were immediately drawn to the door at the end of the hallway leading to Yurakuen’s main dining hall. I am definitely impressed by the Japanese vibe this lovely glass room emits. There is a bonsai-like glass tree in the center which I presume gets lighted in the evening. This place is where they serve the ala carte dishes, which was not what we were here for at the time unfortunately.
My Dad had the idea of trying this place out to celebrate the birthday of my youngest brother, but he specifically wanted to go for the Teppanyaki All-You-Can-Eat. And with the help of membership cards we got 50% off for two persons per card. At Php 2,800 per person, a half-off discount is a pretty big deal. I know, it’s pretty darn expensive! But with the 50% off you can convince yourself that you’re getting a buy-one-get-one deal. Right?
However in truth, I do think Diamond Hotel tries very hard to match up to your money’s worth. They’ve got a slew of fresh seafood and meats available for teppanyaki, as well as fresh vegetables and options for stir-fried noodles and rice. An added value is of course the live performance by their trained teppanyaki chefs, where your food is cooked right before your eyes with great pizzazz.
You can request the chef to do this as many times as you’d like!
The teppanyaki area is located in a separate set of private rooms apart from the main restaurant. Since there is a limited number of teppanyaki tables, getting a reservation is a must. There are two big marble tables per room with the teppan (iron griddle) itself taking up majority of the table space. Despite this, it still is spacious enough for eight people per table.
The teppanyaki area has its own menu where, as I mentioned earlier, you can choose from any number of fresh veggies, seafood, or meat, repeatedly or in any quantity you wish since this is an all-you-can-eat promo after all. You also have the option for stir-fried rice or noodles.
As we went through the menu, the waitresses took our orders for refreshments. Other than the green tea on the house, there are drinks that are already included in the Php 2,800 package, among them bottomless soft drinks, mango or orange juice, and iced tea. I think the beer’s free-flowing too.
The staff spends a great deal of time preparing for your teppanyaki session. The chef’s tools are arranged and the griddle is turned on to heat up. The condiments are brought out: butters, oils, soy sauce, chives, garlic, salt and pepper… Everything needed to flavour the fresh ingredients that you just ordered. It’s easy to see when they’re lined up on the plate just how fresh the ingredients are.
The waitresses then bring out four different kinds of sauces. The first two are for seafood, the third is yummy for meat, and the last is plain soy sauce for your sushi/sashimi needs.
We began with a brief round of appetizers, where we had the usual sashimi and Japanese rolls. These are two requirements for whenever my family and I visit any Japanese place– we must have sashimi and some form of roll! For this trip we had our staple of fresh raw salmon, plus tuna and some crabmeat. For the rolls we tried out the Dragon Roll and the typical California Maki. I must say I’ve had better Japanese rolls, but hey, I still enjoyed these.
And just for fun we ordered Flying Fish Roe Sushi. Aren’t those pretty orange orbs ever so tantalising?
The sushi, sashimi and rolls are unlimited too by the way, but we decided to hold back on the short orders to give room for the main event, the teppanyaki.
A few minutes after we finished out sushi, our chef stepped into the room with some more condiments and his gear. Our chef for that day was the amiable Chef Carlos.
He was more than happy to show off his skills for us. Before starting on our first dish, he performed a brief exhibition by flipping his tools around and tapping them loudly on the iron griddle. There was also a lot of this going on all throughout the meal:
He looks kind of like he’s doing a dance with maracas, only he’s seasoning your food to perfection. Hehe!
We started with stir-fried vegetables. Veggies are always one of my favourite dishes in any meal given they are cooked properly. There is nothing worse than wilted overcooked veggies when I’m raring for my share of leafy greens. I watched as the chef cooked the mixed veggies, and it took only a couple of minutes for it to be ready.
Stir-fried dishes are often pretty straight-forward but you can still mess it up if you overcook or undercook, or season really badly. This one was cooked to perfection, using butter and some soy sauce to make it flavourful. It was hot and still crunchy once it was served. I ate a lot!
The chef next set down the big plate of fresh seafood and proceeded to cook the shrimp. Again, the shrimp was perfectly cooked. Despite the generous seasoning of garlic, butter, salt, pepper, and scallions, the shrimp maintained its sweet natural flavour. And it had that wonderful tender crunch I so love in shrimp cooked the right way.
The highlight of this meal without a doubt were these ginormous and absolutely fantabulous scallops. Quite possibly the biggest I’ve ever seen! These scallops are from Australia, where I remember having some of the best seafood of my life when I last visited sooooo many years ago.
Plump, meaty, and seasoned perfectly, the scallops were so good we went for two rounds!
Next came the beautiful salmon, which again was lovely and nearly melt-in-the-mouth with the garlic and chives joining in on the party.
And now we get to the carnivore’s delights, which are the beef and the lamb!
I’m not much of a fan of beef myself, but I know well enough that beef that is cooked to your specific specifications can still be a pain to chew and swallow if it’s one of the less desirable parts. My Dad had ordered sirloin, which isn’t a cut of beef that is my personal favourite to eat, but the tenderloin was another story entirely. Succulent and juicy comes to mind when I think back on the tenderloin I had during this meal.
My brothers loooove lamb, let me tell you. Anytime there is lamb on a menu they have to have it. I like lamb better than beef but I don’t eat it too often either. I like the interesting flavour it brings forth. Here the lamb was cooked with a butter-mint jelly coating, making it more tasty than usual!
Juicy with a light punch of sweet mint jelly, the lamb was devoured in a manner of seconds by the boys. After which they demanded a second round. Chef Carlos of course obliged and proceeded to set the lamb on fire. Hehe!
For our last dish, we went for some yakisoba-style noodles. Again perfectly seasoned which is a surprise given that they season while doing some “tricks”, but I guess they cannot be regarded as pros if they can’t keep track of how much flavouring they’ve added already even with the antics.
We decided to cool down after the meal with some mixed fruits and ice cream. I must say I was pretty disappointed with the ice cream. The choices were almond, chocolate, and raspberry and none of them were creamy enough to merit a 5-star restaurant grade. I appreciated the presence of almond meal in the almond ice cream, making it nice and authentically almond, but I found the chocolate and raspberry a little grainy.
Sorry I’m making such a fuss. Since learning how to make ice cream at home I’ve become kind of conscious about the quality of ice creams found outside. 😐
So that’s the full meal we had in Yurakuen. Whether the price tags attached to any buffet is worth it is always the subject for debate. But for starters, having a big appetite will certainly help justify paying such a hefty sum. The best option is to borrow Diamond Hotel discount cards from friends so you can get a buy-one-get-one dining option. All I can say in the end is, you know you’re getting a full teppanyaki experience when you step out and your hair and clothes smell like food. 🙂
Diamond Hotel Philippines
Roxas Boulevard cor. Dr. J. Quintos St., Manila
Tel. No.: (632) 528-3000
Note: This is not a sponsored post.