There are people who are great at buffets, and then there are those like myself who are not. And because of this, I find myself a little more critical whenever I go to one. Most of the good buffets don’t come cheap, but expensive is okay as long as you get some satisfaction in return. Value for money, in short. So was this All-You-Can-Eat Dimsum Buffet at LiLi Restaurant worth it?
Though I managed to create this brief video mentioning the things I liked and disliked about the Dimsum Buffet at LiLi Restaurant, you can find a more detailed review after the jump. I also mention what I think are the items you should order repeatedly, and which are the ones you can probably skip. This buffet is only available until January 31st, 2020 so hopefully this review can help you decide if you want to try it or not!
LiLi Restaurant has not changed much since the first time I ever visited it. Many years ago, this was a Hyatt hotel, and they gave me the very first invite I received as a very green food blogger. Funnily enough, it was an invite for a dimsum promo like this one.
I remember being impressed by the interiors before, perhaps because the place was a little newer then. For the record, I’m not saying LiLi Restaurant has bad interiors. The design is actually fitting for a higher-class Chinese restaurant. It’s just that considering how competitive hotel restaurants are in this day and age, I would’ve expected some improvements after all these years.
The place was packed when we arrived. Reservations are a must when you decide to eat here, especially during the Unlimited Dimsum Buffet hours of 12 noon to 2:30 PM.
I went to look at my old blog post about the dimsum buffet here at LiLi six years ago. They had a weekend rate (Php 1,650) and a weekday rate (Php 888), but now it’s a fixed rate from Monday to Sunday at lunchtime. At Php 1,088 net per person, it’s not exactly a cheap meal. It is however a fairly-priced buffet considering you get over 30 dishes to choose from. If you plan your orders right, you can feel like you got every penny’s worth out of that 1,088 pesos. That’s what buffets are always about, isn’t it?
It becomes a different story entirely when you reserve a table on special occasions. When I tried to reserve a table for Father’s Day, I found out that their dimsum buffet rate for that specific day was a whopping Php 3,000+! Apparently they were bringing out lobster and stuff and serving a special menu, but that it still a freaking huge amount of money. Even when they had a promo with a local credit card for 3+1 (3 paying diners, dad eats for free) it was still way too expensive when you do the math.
In the end, we skipped Father’s Day and reserved a table for a week before, but I feel like this incident helped me appreciate the Php 1,088 price-tag even more.
I have to say, going for this dimsum buffet promo is somewhat liberating. When you order, they give you a menu/checklist of the dishes you can choose from. As a fan of dimsum and dumplings, It’s nice to just keep ticking boxes without worrying about fitting what you want to eat within a specific budget.
Okay. Now we get to the good part. Like I mentioned, there are over 30 things to choose from on the menu the waiters hand you when you avail of the dimsum buffet. The dumplings are ordered on a per piece basis; but the appetizers and main dishes come in small, medium, and large sizes. Anything on the menu with a price, specifically the beverages, is not part of the buffet and is therefore paid for separately. The waiter will explain all these before leaving you to think about your order. Apart from those points, ordering is pretty darn straightforward.
The first thing we did was order one of every dish that piqued our interest. Dimsum is dimsum no matter where you eat it, so there are the usual suspects like siomai and hakaw. There are also some unusual options, like the pumpkin dumpling and the black truffle dumpling. The challenge for most restaurants is how they set their dimsum apart through flavor and quality. The LiLi of 6 years ago in my memory served up some pretty good dumplings, so I was expecting A LOT.
For appetizers, we ordered medium sizes of Braised Pork Belly with mustard dip, Five-Spice Marinated Beef Shank, and Chilled bean curd sticks in chili oil. All of them were pretty good, although we had to wait like 20 minutes before the first dish arrived. (Kind of ridiculous!) I was totally smitten by the Five-Spice Marinated Beef Shank. It’s a cold dish, but juicy and flavorful, with all the smokiness of five-spice seasoning.
Another yummy one is the classic Soy Sauce Chicken. This poached free-range chicken is cooked to perfection. It’s juicy and tender, with just the right amount of soy sauce saltiness seeping into the skin and the meat.
Right before we finished our appetizers, the dimsum started to trickle in. To start, we had to take a bit of the har gao or hakaw. Because this is such a common dimsum offering, it has become something of a make or break for me. Any good Chinese restaurant should be able to make good hakaw.
Upon first bite, I was happily impressed by the “Har gaw” or hakaw shrimp dumplings. The shrimp is fat and juicy, alongside crunchy bamboo shoots. It also had a lovely dumpling skin that is of perfect thickness. Carrying the same kind of expectation, I found that I wasn’t a fan of their xiao long bao. The Steamed pumpkin dumpling was fine, but the Steamed wolfberry scallop dumpling with fish roe was positively addictive! Again, just so juicy and full of umami. It had even more umami than the Black truffle dumpling with steamed veggies.
The Steamed beef balls were superb. Juicy, savory, with a bit of tang and a healthy dose of kinchay aftertaste. I realize some people might not like that, so to be sure, if you’re in the anti-cilantro camp, proceed with caution in this one. I happen to love cilantro so I devoured this.
The hofan (har cheung fan in Cantonese) or the Steamed rice roll with shrimp was also quite tasty. I often find myself either hating or loving this dish because sometimes it’s just too thick or too dry. Here at LiLi, the rolls themselves are soft and almost melt-in-the-mouth. It helps the sauce cling very nicely, and once you bite into the juicy shrimp it’s a delicious pop of flavors in the mouth!
We must’ve been having too much of a good streak with the food, because when we got to the fried stuff, I wasn’t very impressed. I am SUPER picky with Radish Cake and this was just okay. (We get better ones from Ongpin and the elderly aunties who make radish cakes at home and sell it to us.) When it came down to the fried dumplings though, I literally wondered why on earth we ordered them lol. The fried section of the menu was rescued only by the next two dishes that arrived.
I used to hate taro puff as a kid, but now I cannot get enough of them. LiLi totally gets some brownie points from me for having TWO variations of crispy taro puffs on their menu. Both the Deep fried taro puff with black pepper beef filling, and the Deep fried taro puff with milk custard center were delightful. The first one is the more traditional and savory one, while the second verges a little on a dessert-y type of fried taro. The sweet chili sauce reminds you that it’s not though!
The last dimsum dish I want to wax poetic about is the Steamed chicken feet in XO sauce. I asked people on my Instagram Stories whether they ate chicken feet, and was surprised when I found out 80% did not. You guys are missing out! Chicken feet is full of collagen, and it’s also enjoyable for anyone who likes to eat chicken skin. Steeped and tenderized in XO Sauce, it’s even better. If you’ve never eaten chicken feet before, this could be the best introduction for you!
And because there’s always a counteracting dish to the ones that I like, I will mention that I was not at all fond of the Salted Egg Yolk Custard Bun they served. I wish there was more filling so that this wouldn’t taste so dry in my mouth. I also wish that the filling was a bit creamier and had more ooze to it. I mean, I did manage to make this on my own and it turned out even better than this, so I know this is not the best they can do.
Whew! I’m glad you have read this far about my fun Dimsum Buffet experience at Lili Restaurant! If you happen to be all dimsum-ed out, we can talk a bit about the other non-dimsum options on the menu. At no additional cost, there are a handful of main dishes you can order that is part of the buffet menu. The choices are the typical sweet and sour pork, yang chow fried rice, etc. I suggest some veggies to keep things balanced.
Finally, we get to the dessert portion. They have 5 desserts on their menu in total. We ordered 4 because the other one is just fried wanton wrappers. By far the two most worth it desserts are the Hot taro soup with sago, and the Chocolate-peanut sticky rice dumpling. My favorite was the taro soup, partly because I love taro and partly because it’s comforting. It felt like a not-too-sweet and warm way to end a feast. If you have more of a sweet tooth, you will really enjoy the chocolate-filled, peanut-coated mochi.
The other two desserts we tried were the Hot sweet potato and ginger soup, plus the Ube marshmallows with desiccated coconut. Fundamentally, there was nothing wrong with them. They just didn’t stand out as much as the other two.
In truth, I did also find the sweet potato soup comforting because of the ginger element. The marshmallows meanwhile are creamier than store-bought marshmallows, and therefore more enjoyable that usual. I’m going to assume they’re homemade, because marshmallows from stores are not as fluffy as that. If you like candy, it’s worth a try. (Unli naman eh!)
Before the dimsum buffet closes for the day, the staff at LiLi Restaurant will go around each table to ask whether you have any last orders. The dishes that I have highlighted in bold are the ones that I highly recommend. These are the dishes we ordered more than once before we called it a day.
If at this point you are still wondering, ‘Mabubusog ba kami sa dimsum?’ I don’t know what else I can say to convince you.
The chili sauce
If you’re anything like me, then this is a very important part of your dimsum-eating experience. I wish I could say this was good, but not only was it not spicy, it didn’t do very much for me except make my dimsum oily. It makes me really sad, I must say.
Here is where things get a little tricky. As much as I hate putting down the visibly hardworking staff of this restaurant, I can’t really say the service was as good as it could probably be. There are certain expectations you get when you dine at a fairly reputable hotel restaurant that has been around for ages. Now I’m not saying the service was bad here, but if you think about the fact that they do this everyday and have had a lot of practice, it just doesn’t look good when they haven’t perfected it yet at this point.
Just some examples: Some of the dishes took FOREVER to arrive. Sometimes, a dish you order gets marked as served on your checklist when in fact it was not. They also had a few missed orders from our first round of ordering that we re-ordered during our second round, and still we had to follow up multiple times before getting the dish.
Again, I don’t want to put down any of the hardworking staff here at LiLi, but I would imagine that diners less patient than I am would feel aggravated over the experience. Thankfully, the food, when it finally arrives somehow makes up for it.
My final thoughts
In general, I think LiLi offers a solid selection both in terms of variety and quality when it comes to their Dimsum Buffet. I can’t say they make the best dimsum I’ve ever eaten, but they make dimsum that anybody can enjoy. The quality is fairly consistent, and all of the dumplings are generously filled. Some of them are actually quite memorable, and I especially enjoyed the taro puff one-two punch. I did bold a lot of dishes up there, meaning I enjoyed quite a lot of them!
I suppose the only downside is the service experience. Again, I am not disregarding the hard work of the staff, but I will say that maybe they could polish the system even more. Maybe the checklist system is confusing? When I talked about LiLi with a friend of mine who enjoys all manners of buffets, he readily agreed with my sentiments on the service. According to him, it’s slower compared to other dimsum buffets he’s tried. I will say this though: the staff are accommodating, respectful, and patient.
At the end of the day, leaving with a satisfied tummy is what matters the most.
So yes, the rating I would give the dimsum buffet at LiLi is 3.25 out of 5. There’s room for improvement, but I enjoyed it a lot. It’s the sort of place you go to when you get a massive dimsum craving, and you want to go beyond the normal siomai. The quality is also better than what you normally get in midrange Chinese restaurants. (Dapat lang, at Php 1,088!) However, I think it’s fair to warn everyone that if you plan to eat here, do not come in a completely empty stomach.
LiLi at New World Hotel Manila Bay
1588 Pedro Gil cor. M.H. Del Pilar
Unlimited Dimsum Buffet Hours: 12 noon to 2:30 PM (Mondays to Sundays)*
Restaurant Hours: 12 noon to 10 PM (Mondays to Sundays)
Contact No.: +63 2 252 6888
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*At the time of writing, the All-You-Can-Eat Dimsum Buffet is available up until January 31, 2020 only.
Full disclosure: This post is NOT sponsored in any way. I received no compensation for writing this review. All opinions stated above are my own.