Things I learned about photographing buffets + a review for HEAT

Remember when I promised I would write a bit more about restaurant and food finds? Well this is supposed to be one of those, and yet I don’t feel like I’ve taken enough good photos to merit a review; or at least not a full one. Even though I will still be writing my thoughts about this restaurant and the food, I mostly want to write about the things I wish to advise myself for the next time I go out on a food trip like this one.

HEAT

So we went out to a breakfast/brunch buffet in EDSA Shangri-La Hotel’s famed restaurant, HEAT (Healthy Eating, Amazing Tastes). I was pretty excited to follow through with one of my food-related New Year’s Resolutions, until I realized how utterly unprepared I was for the whole thing.

Just a couple of observations:

  • I should have brought an extra zoom lens for wide-angle shots. I brought my 50mm, and while it’s perfect for tight food shots, it was nearly impossible for me photograph the buffet table spread properly. I had left my zoom lens at home, thinking I wouldn’t need it. And such a pity too because the spread was amazingly plentiful.
  • I should have brought a small notebook, to write down all the things I ate, how I felt about each, and if I thought it was great value for money. I have a fairly good memory, but it’s nearly impossible for me to remember everything.
  • I should not have been shy and just photographed away. I was kind of scared of looking like an idiot in such a public place, but in hindsight, I’m not really sure why I thought that. If people don’t understand what I’m doing, that should be more their problem than mine. I shouldn’t have to regret not photographing something for their benefit. I appreciate food enough for me to share it with others, and that’s that!

Well I’m not very good at this yet, so don’t expect too much. But I’ve always believed that everything can be learned and improved upon with practice and time, so until then, I consider this one a learning experience. 😉

On to the food, shall we?

During my younger years, I used to love buffets. There was so much pretty food, and everything I saw that was pretty enough that I would put them on my plate. Needless to say not everything was eaten. Nowadays, when we eat at buffets, I scope out the spread first and then pick the things I actually really want to eat. I don’t have such a large appetite, so I’ve learned the art of choosing. For buffets in five-star hotels like this one, it is a bit wise to go for the expensive stuff before anything else.

Upon entering, the first thing my eyes latched onto the pastry shelf. Then I began hearing the church choir sing a celestial chorus while a shower of light came down from the heavens. The sight of so many lovely pastries, breads and rolls always makes me so excited, mostly because I understand the effort, love, and care put into making each and every one of them.

Now the thing about me is, no matter how much I love to make and admire sweets and pastries, I don’t particularly like to eat them (aside from having a taste to know if a pastry is any good). The only baked good I cannot live without eating is yeasted breads, though I imagine I cannot live without being able to bake either.

pastries


I would love to have a block of honeycomb dripping with fresh honey (1) set atop a bread shelf (2) full of fresh bread in my kitchen! There were so many kinds of croissants (3) and danishes (4 & 5), buns and breads on there.

I was just so smitten with all their cuteness! My brothers were immediately taken by the doughnuts and each of them took two as appetizers. (We really don’t eat a lot of doughnuts at home, just so you know…) I gathered from them that the doughnuts were nothing special, and neither were the blueberry muffins. Good thing I had only a small bite. I had a piece of Almond-Filled Bread though, and I don’t know if it’s because I’m partial to almond-flavoured custard fillings, but this particular bread was actually good. It was so good that I completely forgot to photograph it.

After the initial joy over seeing the pastries section passed a bit, I began looking around me at the impressive amount of food choices. I immediately felt a pang of hunger, realising just how ready I was for breakfast! For all my lack of cooking posts, I actually prefer eating real food rather than sweet pastries. While I’m often thinking about how to create better pastries, I am constantly thinking about what food I’m about to have for lunch, or when the next time I can get a bowl of wanton noodles will be.

Loving Asian Foods the most, that’s where I immediately headed.

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On one side were Indian breads with spicy and exotic-smelling spreads (6); in another corner was a noodle bar (7) being managed by one of the restaurant’s chefs (8), and which was frequented by the Korean guests in the restaurant. Then there is also the ever-present Chinese Food area, with my favourites-  dimsum! (9) – and the typical Chinese stir-fry noodles, congee, sweet and sour fish, beef and broccoli, among others.

I went over to the Indian section first because I am truly in love with roti and Indian curry. While the curry they served tasted kind of all right, the Naan was so tough! I couldn’t tear it apart, nor bite it off properly. I had to rip it off with my teeth while pulling the rest of the bread with my hands! The Japanese area had some maki, kani salad with Japanese mayonnaise, marinated tofu and miso soup. The Japanese makis did not look all that appealing to me so I ended up taking only two kinds. It was a good thing too as they tasted just okay. As someone who loves Japanese food, I was disappointed.

Of course, they had a Filipino section, with the Philippine breakfast staple tapsilog (garlic rice with beef) taking the starring role. I liked the smoked tilapia, mainly because I just like smoked tilapias. I ate it with a couple of slices of salty eggs and tomatoes. Mmm… My brother tells me the steak slices were pretty good. I never got around to getting a slice myself but that’s the same thing I hear from other people who have taken meals here, so I suppose the beef is a safe bet. There was also some veal and sausages (10), which were on the average side for taste but were tender enough.

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Across the veal station were the deli cold cuts and all different kinds of cheese (11). I actually ate a lot of smoked salmon (12) now that I think about it- probably more than any other thing- although the marinade they used here isn’t the best I’ve tasted. I guess I like the salmon aftertaste that much!

Near the counter where one can get their choice of fresh fruit juices and smoothies, some of the desserts were set. There were stands of fresh seasonal fruits (13) with very nice fruit carvings as centre-pieces for each. There were also glasses of fruit parfait (14), and because I am a bit of a sucker for things with fruits plus yoghurt, these were the first things that caught my eye in this area.

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They had island counters in the centre of the buffet with breakfast toasts and pancakes, as well as a chef on standby in case anybody wanted fresh hot crepes (15) made for them. You can have the choice of filling and ice cream flavour to top your crepe. We had crepe filled with blueberries, topped with green tea frozen yoghurt and chocolate syrup. Happy times!

But an even happier moment for me was the taho or soy pudding (16). I have been in love with taho since forever, and every time I have a bowl of it I go back to some memory of mine from childhood. The best taho I have eaten is actually from street vendors, yet I have to say I definitely liked their taho a lot. They cooked the tofu until it was so tender, plus the sugar syrup they used was only mildly sweet. It wasn’t thick and overpowering like most taho syrups, plus the pearls they used were tiny. Everything went down smoothly, every scoop a spoonful of joy!

We’re not buffet people so I have no idea when we’ll be coming back to this place. Being a restaurant in a five-star hotel, the meal is on the pricey side as expected (luckily we dined here for free!), but while you do get value for your money because of the abundance of the spread, I’m not so sure if you would be coming back to the buffet table for seconds because you are excited about the food. Maybe you go back for some of your favourites, but more likely you return for the sake of eating the same amount as you paid for! To be honest, I wouldn’t come back here for another round of breakfast, because although there were a lot, and I mean A LOT of choices, the food was just really average, save for a few good ones. Lunch or dinner might be better, especially at that price!

I give the breakfast buffet 3 stars out of 5.

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